Tag Archives: fiscal cliff

How federal budget cuts could affect you

Government agencies are already taking steps to comply with automatic spending cuts that took effect March 1.

Some examples:

AIRCRAFT CARRIER

One of the Navy’s premiere warships, the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, sits pier-side in Norfolk, Va., its tour of duty delayed. The carrier and its 5,000-person crew were to leave for the Persian Gulf on Feb. 8, along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg.

AIRPORT CUSTOMS

People arriving on international flights were said to experience delays at airport customs and immigration booths, including at Los Angeles International and O’Hare International in Chicago. Officials said Monday that’s because they closed lanes that would have previously been staffed by workers on overtime.

Examples of other steps that are planned or predicted:

FEDERAL WORKERS

More than half of the nation’s 2.1 million government workers may be furloughed. At the Pentagon alone that could mean 800,000 people who will lose a day’s pay each week for more than five months; other federal agencies are likely to furlough several hundred thousand more for a varying number of days.

AIRLINE FLIGHTS

There could be widespread flight delays and cancellations due to furloughs of air traffic controllers, but furloughs won’t start until April because of the legal requirement to give workers advance notice. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood predicts flights to cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco could have delays of up to 90 minutes during peak hours. FAA officials have said they expect to eliminate overnight shifts by air traffic controllers in more than 60 airport towers and close more than 100 towers at smaller airports. But information posted online by the agency shows 72 airports that could lose midnight shifts and 238 airports whose towers could be closed.

DEFENSE

Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff paint a dire picture of construction projects on hold, limits on aircraft carriers patrolling the waters and even a delay in the expansion of Arlington National Cemetery. About 800,000 Defense Department civilians face furloughs. The Pentagon will be forced to furlough for one day a week about 15,000 teachers who work at schools around the world for children of people in the military. Veterans’ funerals at Arlington could be cut to 24 a day from 31. Troops killed in action in Afghanistan will be the priority; they usually are laid to rest within two weeks. Beginning in April, the Army will cancel maintenance at depots, which will force 5,000 layoffs, and it also will let go more than 3,000 temporary and contract employees. The Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels will cancel air show appearances.

FOOD SAFETY

There could be an estimated 2,100 fewer food safety inspections, meaning greater risks to consumers. Worker furloughs are not planned, but rather the reduction in inspections would come from cuts in travel spending. On meat inspections, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that it will be several months before meat inspectors are furloughed and that each will likely be furloughed 11 days or 12 days, instead of 15 days as the Obama administration indicated earlier.

TOURISM

The administration is canceling tours of the White House beginning today (March 9), citing staffing reductions. House Speaker John Boehner says Capitol tours will continue. Visiting hours at all 398 national parks probably will be cut and sensitive areas blocked off to the public. Thousands of seasonal workers looking for jobs would not be hired, according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. He and National Park Service director Jon Jarvis said visitors would encounter locked restrooms, fewer rangers and trash cans emptied less frequently.

NUCLEAR CLEANUP

There could be disruption of efforts to close the radioactive waste tanks currently leaking at Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The Department of Energy estimates that it will have to eliminate $92 million for the Office of River Protection at Hanford, which will result in furloughs or layoffs impacting about 2,800 contract workers. Other high-risk sites facing work delays are the Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee, Savannah River Site in South Carolina and the Idaho National Laboratory.

EDUCATION

Some 70,000 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten Head Start would be cut from the program and 14,000 teachers would lose their jobs. For students with special needs, the cuts would eliminate some 7,200 teachers and aides. The Education Department is warning that the cuts will impact up to 29 million student loan borrowers and that some lenders may have to lay off staff or even close. Some of the 15 million college students who receive grants or work-study assignments at some 6,000 colleges would also see changes.  The 77-member Student Aid Alliance – a coalition of universities and college professionals – says the cost to a student could be as much as $876 annually in new fees, fewer work-study hours and reduced grants for students receiving federal aid.

CONGRESS

Congressional trips overseas likely will take a hit. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told fellow Republicans that he’s suspending the use of military aircraft for official trips by House members. Lawmakers typically travel on military planes for fact-finding trips to Afghanistan or Pakistan, or other congressional excursions abroad.

TAXES

The Internal Revenue Service says tax refunds shouldn’t be delayed because it won’t furlough workers until summer. But other IRS services will be affected. Millions of taxpayers may not be able get responses from IRS call centers and taxpayer assistance centers. The cuts would delay IRS responses to taxpayer letters and reduce the number of tax returns reviewed, impacting the agency’s ability to detect and prevent fraud. The IRS says this could result in billions of dollars in lost revenue to the government.

JOBS ISSUES

More than 3.8 million people jobless for six months or longer could see their unemployment benefits reduced by as much as 9.4 percent. Thousands of veterans would not receive job counseling. Fewer Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors could mean 1,200 fewer inspections of dangerous work sites.

HEALTH CARE

Hospitals, doctors and other Medicare providers will see a 2 percent cut in government reimbursements. But they aren’t complaining because the pain could be a lot worse if there was a deal to reduce federal deficits. The automatic cuts would reduce Medicare spending by about $100 billion over a decade. But President Barack Obama had put on the table $400 billion in health care cuts, mainly from Medicare. Republicans wanted more. Obama’s health overhaul law is expected to roll out on time and largely unscathed by the cuts. Part of the reason is that the law’s major subsidies to help uninsured people buy private health coverage are structured as tax credits. So is the Affordable Care Act’s assistance for small businesses. Tax credits have traditionally been exempted from automatic cuts.

2016 politics on display as Congress ends term

Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate, voted for the “fiscal cliff” compromise that raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul voted against it. And Vice President Joe Biden helped broker the deal with GOP leaders in the Senate.

As Congress closed out its term this week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie accused fellow Republicans of showing “callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state” by not holding a vote on Superstorm Sandy aid. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined him in the rebuke.

And Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton drew headlines for a different reason after being hospitalized for a blood clot in her head, an illness that raised questions about the Democrat’s political future.

While the next presidential primary voting is still three years away, the political implications of the actions and whereabouts of the potential field of 2016 candidates hung over extraordinary year-end Washington drama.

The fiscal cliff vote forced those in Congress who are eyeing presidential runs to stake out early positions which signal how they may be aligning themselves – and which could come back to haunt them should they move forward.

The intense legislative debate also gave would-be candidates involved in them an opportunity to command the spotlight while rivals were on the sidelines. And the weeks of gridlock over the looming fiscal cliff of big tax increases and spending cuts provided governors weighing bids a chance to cast themselves as outsiders and, perhaps, start building a case for taming Washington paralysis.

For Republican White House hopefuls in Congress, the votes on the compromise that raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans could help frame future presidential primary debates over the debt ceiling, tax code reforms and how to fund government and entitlement programs. The party has rejected tax increases for more than two decades but now finds itself trying to regroup after President Barack Obama’s re-election and dealing with a struggle between Republicans who want to take a more pragmatic tax approach and tea party loyalists advocating a firm anti-tax position.

“The American people chose divided government. As elected officials, we have a duty to apply our principles to the realities of governing,” Ryan said after joining with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in support of the bill, putting him in the minority of the GOP caucus and against the tea party.

Ryan may be spared some political fallout from the right, given that Republican activist Grover Norquist, who for years has pushed GOP lawmakers to pledge not to raise taxes, and several other conservative heavyweights supported the bill, including Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, the former head of the anti-tax Club for Growth.

Two other potential 2016 presidential candidates drew praise from conservative opponents of the measure for voting to refuse tax increases.

Rubio, a prominent Hispanic lawmaker in a party trying to connect with Latino voters, called the legislation an impediment to “rapid economic growth and job creation.” The Florida senator also said it failed to control runaway debt. Paul, the son of GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, opposed the bill because of the combination of spending and tax increases. The Kentucky senator said: “We’re going to raise taxes and we’re going to raise spending. Tell me what’s good about that?”

On the Democratic side, Biden played a major role in the deal-making, with his late-night talks with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell leading to the compromise plan. It was a reminder of the former Delaware senator’s legislative skills, which could either impress Democratic primary voters or anger liberals who may view the deal as too much of a compromise with Republicans.

As the vice president helped broker a deal, it was hard for Democrats to overlook where Clinton, the party’s formidable potential contender, was: She revealed she was being treated in a New York hospital for a blood clot in her head that formed after she suffered a concussion during a fainting spell in early December. She was released from the hospital Jan. 3 and doctors said they were confident she would make a full recovery. But the extended illness made it more likely that Clinton, 65, would face scrutiny over her health should she run.

Beyond Washington, two prominent Northeast governors weighed in on Congress’ year-end wrangling, and wasted little time assailing the House GOP leadership over hurricane relief.

Christie said his state had been betrayed by his fellow Republicans in the House, who refused to bring a Superstorm Sandy aid package to a vote, adding, “America deserves better than just another example of a government that has forgotten who they are there to serve and why.”

Cuomo, a Democrat long considered by party insiders to be a possible White House candidate, issued a joint statement with Christie condemning the “inaction and indifference” by the House. “The people of our states can no longer afford to wait while politicians in Washington play games,” they said. House Republicans said after Christie’s blistering news conference that they would hold a vote Friday for $9 billion for the national flood insurance program and another on Jan. 15 for a remaining $51 billion in the relief package.

It’s impossible to say whether this week’s votes and comments will become 2016 campaign fodder. But they certainly give hints about how possible candidates are testing the waters – and how their positions are faring with certain parts of the electorate.

“It strikes me that Ryan is thinking he wants to be the establishment candidate,” said Doug Gross, an Iowa Republican who chaired Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign in the state. Conservatives may agree – and not look kindly on that. As Erick Erickson, a conservative commentator and the editor of RedState.com, put it on Twitter, “Thus ends the Paul Ryan 2016 Presidential Exploratory Committee.”

Still, some Republicans dismissed any fallout from their candidates’ votes.

“I don’t ultimately think this one vote will hurt any of them,” said Sara Taylor Fagen, a Republican strategist. “But to some degree it probably forecasts their voting patterns for the future.”

Top words, phrases, names of 2012: Apocalypse, Gangnam Style, Newtown

The Global Language Monitor announced this week that “apocalypse” was the top word for 2012, “Gangnam Style” was the top phrase and “Newtown” and “Malala Yousafzai” were the top names in the 13th annual survey of the English language.

In the review of top words, the GLM said after “apocalypse” came “deficit,” “olympiad,” “Bak’tun,” “meme,” “MOOC,” “the Cloud,” “omnishambles,” “frankenstorm” and “obesogenic.”

GLM president Paul JJ Payack said, “Apocalypse – armageddon and similar terms – reflects a growing fascination with various ‘end-of-the-world’ scenarios, or at least the end of life as we know it. This year the Mayan Apocalypse was well noted, but some eight of the top words and phrases were directly related to a sense of impending doom.”

Payack noted the use of such hybrid words as “Obamageddon,” “Romneygeddon” and “Eurogeddon.”

A look at the other lists:

Top phrases

1. Gangnam Style.

2. Global warming/climate change.

3. Fiscal cliff.

4. The deficit.

5. God Particle.

6. Rogue nukes.

7. Near-Earth asteroid.

8. Binders full of women.

9. Arab Spring.

10. Solar max.

The top names of 2012

1. Newtown and Malala Yousafza. 

2. Xi Jinping.

3. Kate Middleton.

4. President Barack Obama.

5. Mitt Romney.

6. London Olympics.

7. Higgs Boson.

8. Europe.

9. Felix Baumgartner.

10. Senkaku Islands.

GLM develops its end-of-year lists based upon word usage in primarily English-speaking countries. To qualify for the lists, the words, names and phrases must be found globally, have a minimum of 25,000 citations. There must also be a depth and breadth of usage, which can be tracked in print and on the Web.

A look at tough issues awaiting Obama’s final term

As President Barack Obama approaches his second and final term, he will have to decide where to be ambitious, where to be cautious and where to buy time.

A look at some of the big issues Obama will have to tackle when he returns to Washington after a Hawaiian vacation

GUN CONTROL

Nothing lends an issue a sense of urgency like a harrowing tragedy that leaves the nation feeling shell-shocked. Shortly after the Dec. 14 school shooting in Connecticut, Obama said gun control would be a central issue in his second term, and named an interagency task force to recommend anti-violence legislation, with Vice President Joe Biden taking the lead. Meanwhile, pro-gun Democrats and even a few Republicans have expressed a willingness to consider new gun regulations, a shift that many have described as a “tipping point” in the age-old efforts to impose more stringent restrictions on gun ownership.

But the National Rifle Association has made clear it won’t play ball. Instead of new gun laws, the NRA’s chief executive officer proposed putting armed guards in every school, highlighting the sizable rift between gun-rights advocates and gun-control supporters that will complicate Obama’s efforts to get something through Congress.

Obama’s Democratic predecessor, President Bill Clinton, pushed an assault weapons ban through the Democratic-led Congress in 1994, prompting fierce pushback from gun-rights groups. Clinton later would credit the NRA with shifting the House majority to the GOP for the first time in 40 years, although other factors including a House bank scandal played big roles, too. The Clinton-era ban expired in 2004 and has not been renewed.

FISCAL CLIFF

Politicians of all stripes say Obama’s first priority is to resolve the deep partisan divide over tax-and-spending issues, exemplified by repeated impasses over two years that led to this week’s showdown on the “fiscal cliff.” Obama and members of Congress left town for the holidays with no clear path forward to avert the combination of across-the-board spending cuts and tax increases that economists have warned could send the U.S. economy teetering back into recession.

The measures are set to take affect at the beginning of January if Congress doesn’t act in the final few days of 2012, but high-stakes negotiations between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, have devolved, with Boehner unable to show he can muster the Republican votes to support a compromise reached with Obama. “God only knows” how a deal can be reached now, Boehner declared before heading out for the holidays.

An even higher-risk conflict may arise in a few months. Congress again must either raise the federal debt ceiling by late February or early March _ or see the government default on its loans.

IMMIGRATION

In his first news conference after the election, Obama promised to begin work on a major immigration bill soon after his January inauguration. But with a full plate of other pressing issues, it remains to be seen how much of his attention the issue will garner. After all, immigration reform advocates have criticized Obama for failing to follow through on his promise to make immigration reform a top priority during his first term.

Obama won a big majority of Hispanic votes in both of his elections. The trend alarms Republican strategists, who fear their party won’t win another presidential election until it repairs its bad relations with Latinos. That could provide an historic opportunity for Democrats, who have long sought comprehensive immigration reform, to reach a deal with Republicans even where previous bipartisan deals have flopped.

The Republican-controlled House already has taken its first steps toward showing it’s ready to pursue a new way forward on immigration, voting last month to make green cards accessible to foreign students graduating from U.S. universities with advanced science and math degrees. A more sweeping bill presumably would deal not only with legal residents but also with the estimated 11 million people in the U.S. illegally _ a major sticking point in past immigration battles.

NATIONAL SECURITY

Not all of Obama’s second-term puzzles are at home. The end to the war in Iraq and the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan present ongoing challenges, as do the civil war in Syria, political turmoil in Egypt and instability and violence in northern Mali. Also, it remains to be seen whether Republican indignation over inadequate security at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya where four Americans were killed on Sept. 11 will continue to vex Obama next year.

The start of the Obama’s second term also means a shake-up within his Cabinet. On Friday, Obama nominated Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton when she steps down early next year. Kerry’s nomination is expected to easily clear the Senate, where he has served for the last six years as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

It may not be smooth sailing when it comes to nominating a new military chief. Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., considered to be Obama’s leading candidate to replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, is facing intense criticism on a number of fronts, including his views on Israel and Iran, and comments he made in 1998 about an openly gay nominee for an ambassadorship.

Poll: Majority of Americans say Republicans are too extreme

For the first time ever, more than half of all Americans view the Republican Party’s policies and views as too extreme, according to a CNN/ORC International poll.

Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said the GOP’s positions are extremist, up 17 points from just two years ago. Only 37 percent said the same of Democrats.

The survey also found that 53 percent of Americans believe the GOP should compromise more, compared with 41 percent who said the same about the Democratic Party.

And fewer than one-third of those surveyed in the poll said they trust congressional Republicans more than President Barack Obama to deal with the major issues facing the nation.

Obama’s approval rating stood at 52 percent in the poll, while Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who’s leading GOP fiscal cliff negotiations with the president, wins the approval of only 34 percent of Americans.

The survey also indicated that seven in 10 Americans believe the fiscal cliff will cause a crisis or major problems for the country if a deal is not reached. The fiscal cliff refers to deep, automatic across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International December 17-18, with 620 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The sample included 463 interviews with landline respondents and 157 interviews with cell phone respondents. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points.

Poll: 44 percent say Santa’s a Democrat

New numbers from Public Policy Polling, which produced frequent polls during the 2012 election cycle, show that 44 percent of people surveyed recently think Santa is a Democrat.

About 28 percent said Santa is a Republican.

The poll also found that voters think Santa will be delivering presents rather than lumps of coal to both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

Other findings:

• 54 percent were concerned the looming “fiscal cliff” could cause Santa to cut back on benefits.

• 47 percent of voters said there is a “war on Christmas.”

• 32 percent of voters correctly identified the number of days in Hanukkah.

• 52 percent of voters said they believe in Santa Claus, 80 percent said they are on the “nice” list, 11 percent admitted they are on the “naughty” list.

• 43 percent would tell “Daddy” if they saw “Mommy” kissing Santa Claus. The poll did not ask about “Daddy” kissing Santa.

• 61 percent said they would not pursue charges if Grandma got run over by Santa’s reindeer. Democrats were more likely to pursue charges than Republicans.

• The most popular holiday movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” 22 percent. Second is  “A Christmas Story,” 20 percent.

• Santa is voters’ favorite winter holiday character, followed by Rudolph.

• 52 percent said Santa is the most plausible of all holiday figures. Leprechauns were No. 2, and then Cupid.

• 36 percent agreed that the most annoying holiday song is “The Chipmunk Song.” No. 2 is “Santa Baby.”

INFLUENCE GAME: Tax them, not us, groups say

A big coalition of business groups says there must be give-and-take in the negotiations to avoid the “fiscal cliff” of massive tax increases and spending cuts. But raising tax rates – a White House priority – is out of the question, the group adds.

The homebuilding industry says it won’t tolerate even a nick in the mortgage interest deduction. It doesn’t matter, industry leaders say, if it’s part of a broad, spread-the-pain package designed to tame the soaring debt.

And there’s no ambiguity in the views of the top lobbying arm for retirees.

“AARP to Washington: No cuts to Medicare and Social Security in last-minute budget deal” the group’s website declares. AARP nixes the notion of slowing the cost-of-living formula for Social Security recipients, even if it’s part of a big, bipartisan compromise package. And President Barack Obama should drop his idea of raising Medicare’s eligibility age, AARP adds.

So much for the notion of shared sacrifice as Congress and the White House face a Dec. 31 deadline to craft a far-reaching deficit-reduction plan. If they fail, the government tips over the so-called fiscal cliff, at least for a time. Nearly everyone’s taxes will rise, and federal programs will be whacked. Financial markets might quake, and a new recession could begin, economists say.

In Washington, meanwhile, it’s virtually every group for itself, scrambling to protect 100 percent of each tax break and government payout it now enjoys.

America is split down the middle politically, as the last half dozen presidential races have shown. Aside from a few think tanks and civic-minded groups, there’s almost no talk of splitting the pain among interest groups, populations and professions in a manner that seems inevitable if lawmakers are to achieve the trillions of dollars in deficit-reduction both parties call for.

The old adage, “Don’t tax thee, don’t tax me, tax the man behind the tree” was never more in vogue.

Of course, some of the tough talk may be posturing. No one wants to show a willingness to compromise at the start of a long, tough negotiating season.

Still, the adamant positions that major interest groups are taking – and their insistence that sacrifices hit others, not them – underscore the difficulty Obama and congressional leaders face. The tougher a group talks to its members and the public, the harder it is to back down later when a bit of shared pain for everyone emerges as the only path to a deal.

The line-in-the-sand talk begins, of course, with top politicians themselves.

“Raising tax rates is unacceptable,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said shortly after Obama won re-election. He seemed unfazed by Obama’s campaign promise to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire for couples making over $250,000 a year.

Washington insiders think both men might bend, as they did last year when they nearly struck a “grand bargain” combining major spending cuts with tax increases. Boehner’s conservative colleagues rebelled before the package took final shape.

Boehner’s House caucus seems slightly less restive now. But outside groups are gearing up to fight virtually every idea being floated to reduce spending or raise revenues. To reach a deficit-cutting package big enough to replace the fiscal cliff, lawmakers will have to stare down these groups, which pour millions of dollars into political campaigns and flood congressional offices with constituents’ phone calls.

Interest groups, like many politicians, talk warmly of compromise in the abstract. But they dig in when the talk turns to specific ideas that run counter to their philosophies or profitability.

“There has to be give” in the negotiations, said Jade West, who heads the decade-old Tax Relief Coalition, comprised of major business groups. But on the question of raising tax rates on the rich – probably the most-discussed issue on the fiscal cliff table – West said her group is adamantly opposed.

“I don’t care what he said,” she said of Obama’s campaigning on the topic. “The sound bite, ‘tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the rich”” ignores the harm such a policy would do, she said.

“Taxing the people who hire is just nuts,” West said.

AARP is equally firm in opposing changes to Social Security and Medicare, the mammoth programs that economists say must be reined in soon to avoid disastrously large deficits in future years.

Seventeen months ago, AARP showed more flexibility. Its policy chief said the group would consider modest cuts in Social Security for future retirees, noting that such changes seem all but inevitable at some point.  AARP members complained, the official left, and the organization resumed the stance it holds today: no reductions in Social Security or Medicare benefits.

Itemized tax deductions are another area where Democrats and Republicans are looking for possible ways to generate more government revenue. Here, too, powerful lobbying groups are rallying to oppose any changes that would cost their members money.

The home mortgage interest deduction saves borrowers $99 billion a year in taxes, making it easier to buy and sell houses. Should even a small portion of that tax break be eliminated, perhaps for the richest people, to help reduce federal borrowing?

No, says Jerry Howard, chief executive of the National Association of Home Builders. Home owners suffered huge losses in personal wealth during the recent collapse of the housing market and the sector should be spared any further dings, he said.

“While the rest of the nation was in a recession, we were in a depression,” he said. “Congress should be embarrassed” to even think of asking homeowners to help pay for a fiscal crisis that lawmakers brought on themselves through years of inaction, he added.

It’s the same tune at universities and other institutions that rely on charitable gifts. They want to fully exempt the charitable gift deduction, which costs the government about $51 billion a year, from a role in the fiscal cliff talks.

“We urge you and House leaders not to impose any limits or caps to the charitable deduction,” the Charitable Giving Coalition said in a recent letter to Boehner and others.

Like other interest groups, this one says it has special attributes that set it apart.

“The charitable deduction is different than other itemized deductions in that it encourages individuals to give away a portion of their income to those in need,” the letter said.

And so it goes, group by group, tax break by tax break, payout by payout. Everyone is special. Everyone is deserving.

AIDS activists strip naked in Boehner’s office

Seven AIDS activists on Nov. 27 entered U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s Office and stripped naked to protest pending cuts to HIV/AIDS funds.

The activists were with QUEEROCRACY, ACT UP NY and ACT UP Philadelphia. When they stripped, the revealed painted slogans on their bodies:  “AIDS Cuts Kill” and “Fund PEPFAR,” “Fund Ryan White,” “Fund Global Fund,” “Fund Medicaid” and  “Fund HOPWA.”

Cassidy Gardner of QUEEROCRACY, in a news release from actupny.com said, “When you strip away the rhetoric of the fiscal cliff and the grand bargain, you see that these terms are a way to thinly veil draconian budget cuts that will leave millions around the world with absolutely nothing.

The activists emphasized that later this week, just before World AIDS Day, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to deliver a speech on a blueprint to end AIDS.

The protesters said that there can be no end with mandatory budget cuts that could come early next year.

“The naked truth is that if President Obama and congressional leaders like Speaker Boehner  allow these budget cuts to lifesaving programs, global health programs will lose $689 million, while domestic AIDS programs will lose $538 million,” stated Eustacia Smith of ACT UP New York.

Police arrested three women in the demonstration and they face charges of lewd behavior. Four men were not arrested. It was unclear why the women, who put their clothes back on, were arrested but not the men.

LGBT groups survey the ‘fiscal cliff’

A report from a coalition of LGBT groups details the negative effects that sequestration would have on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans in employment, health, housing, higher education, and safety.

The Center for American Progress, in partnership with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and 23 other national LGBT groups, released the study, “Caught in the Budget Battle: How the ‘Fiscal Showdown’ Impacts Gay and Transgender Americans.”

Looking at the conclusions in the paper, center vice president Jeff Krehely said, “Sequestration in particular would inflict significant harm by requiring wholesale cuts to programs that are critical to the health, wellness, and livelihood of LGBT people and their families. We cannot afford to let that happen.”

Many federal programs, directly and indirectly, support and serve the LGBT population. If across-the-board budget cuts go into effect, LGBT leaders are concerned about:

• Threats to the employment security of LGBT workers “because federal agencies would have fewer resources to investigate claims of employment discrimination.”

Under sequestration, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal employment discrimination laws, would see an automatic cut to its budget in 2013 that will continue through 2021 if no budget resolution is reached after sequestration occurs.

• Lower quality health care for LGBT families because of reduced program funding used to address their health care needs.

For elder LGBT Americans, sequestration would cut Medicare payments to doctors, hospitals and other health care providers for 2013.

• The absence of critical resources from government agencies working to combat bullying and school violence against LGBT youth.

For LGBT youth, sequestration would reduce funding for agencies within the Department of Education and Department of Justice responsible for investigating bullying claims against students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

• Limited ability of federal government to address the high rates of homelessness among LGBT youth.

• Limited governmental capacity to prevent discrimination in housing against LGBT renters, tenants and potential homeowners.

With fewer resources, the report maintains, it would become more difficult for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to enforce relatively new federal regulations prohibiting discrimination against LGBT renters, tenants, and potential homeowners. Sequestration would greatly undermine the progress made over the past four years toward ending housing discrimination among the population.

• Hampered governmental efforts to prevent violent crime against LGBT people through enforcement of hate crimes legislation.

“Lives are literally on the line if Congress lets our country tumble off this cliff. LGBT people and our families — like so many families — are already struggling in this recovering economy, and draconian budget cuts will only make things worse,” said Rea Carey of NGLTF.