Defense lobbyists say cliff now unavoidable

A newspaper that covers Congress reports defense contractor lobbyists are no longer fighting to avoid a plunge off the fiscal cliff because they no longer consider it feasible.

"No one in Congress expects a deal before the across-the-board cuts hit in March," reports The Hill, adding that defense industry groups "are now strategizing to get them reversed as soon as possible after they take effect, keeping the damage to a minimum."

The sequestration law, which triggers across-the-board spending cuts in March unless Congress passes something more selective, doesn't touch the salaries of enlisted personnel and officers, but the Pentagon has plans for one-day-per-week furloughs of 800,000 civilian defense employees, including hundreds who work in Hawaii.

And the rear admiral who is chief spokesman for the Navy told HawaiiNewsNow that thousands of Oahu-based private sector employees of defense contractors will potentially be affected by such cost reduction moves as deferring scheduled maintenance on ships at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

"The fight's not over," Dan Stohr, spokesman for the Aerospace Industries Association, told The Hill. "When sequestration goes into effect on March 1, we don't shrivel up and die - we just get louder.

The military sector accounts for an estimated 18 percent of all Hawaii economic activity.

In other deficit reduction action, Republicans on the House Budget Committee say they have a plan to balance the federal budget in 10 years without "significantly different" changes to the program, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., told the newspaper Roll Call. The plan apparently would allow people to choose among competing plans.

Apart from the direct effects of spending cuts - a recent report said the FDA was planning to cut back on food inspections - Republican pollster Bill McInturff says Republicans and Democrats face being blamed for indirect effects caused by Congress affecting consumer confidence.

McInturff did an analysis of the University of Michigan survey of consumer confidence, which is based on a 100-point scale that typically moves only a point or two from month to month. He found, the Washington Post reports, that the last fiscal cliff debate coincided with an almost 10-point decline that was bigger than the one that was recorded after 911. Consumer spending is 70 percent of all U.S. economic activity.

Congress is currently in recess. It returns Feb. 25, only four days before the sequestration deadline.

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