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Special Report

All-Star Panel: Debate over job loss numbers from sequester

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 8, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: These cuts are not smart. They are not fair. They will hurt our economy. They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls.

RAY LAHOOD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: These are harmful cuts with real world consequences that will cost jobs and hurt our economy.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Three-quarters of a million people will lose their jobs if the sequester takes effect and stays in effect. Those are real world consequences. These are real people. It's not political leverage.

SEN. HARRY REID: We have learned that the sequestration already has cut 1.6 million jobs.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, just some of the sound from top Democrats. There was House Speaker John Boehner who wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal saying this about sequestration, "A week from now a dramatic new federal policy is set to go into effect that threatens U.S. national security, thousands of jobs, and more. In a bit of irony, President Obama stood Tuesday with first responders who could lose their jobs if the policy goes into effect." Well, the GAO, Government Accountability Office, came out with this report. And in a little seen footnote on page 51 is this gem, "One DOJ component, the U.S. parole commission, implemented a reduction in force of one employee to achieve partial savings required by sequestration in fiscal year 2013." One person lost their job as a result of sequestration. What about this and the bigger picture? Let's bring in our panel, Tucker Carlson, host of "Fox & Friends Weekend," Ron Fourier, senior political columnist at National Journal, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Who is this guy? Who is this one guy?

BAIER: We tried to find him today.

CARLSON: The poor guy. Deep in the office of redundant services in the department of pointlessness, everybody else gets to keep his job. This has to affect his self-esteem. I think this actually hurts both sides, the tape that you showed, it's almost unbelievable -- 1.6 million --

BAIER: Have already lost. Not are going to. Have already.

CARLSON: We have learned. But on the other hand there were also Republicans saying sequestration is a meaningful reduction in government. And the truth is, government never gets smaller for reasons that social scientists really ought to devote more time to figuring out. You are literally more likely to die on the job than you are to be fired from the job if you work for the federal government. And that hasn't changed despite Republican efforts or apparent Republican efforts. Why is that? It's a basic mystery of life in Washington. I bet Charles has the answer but I want to hear it.

BAIER: Ron, it's important to point out there are still Democrats and Republicans who think sequestration was the wrong way to do it, across the board cuts, not being able to move money around the way they thought was going to be moved around. But these 23 agencies moved it around and only one person lost their job.

RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL: That's the perverse irony here.  This was supposed to be the epitome of dysfunction in Washington. All these people were going to be laid off, all these programs are going to be cut. Our government can't even do wrong the right way. That's how bad we are right now.


BAIER: There were going to be lines at the airport because all of these people were going to be laid off. There were going to be problems along the border. Remember, Secretary Napolitano in the White House briefing room. It was a snowball. I remember talking about it on the panel many times.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Right. And orphans were going to be thrown in the snow. Look, you really can't improve on this as a matter of comedy. What commentary can you offer when you have the clips you just showed. And I do love the fact that Harry Reid had learned that 1.6 -- it's the kind of thing where you want to say to Harry, name one.  And it would be this one guy.

But, look, the very important lesson. Even though there was not a reduction in the work force, there was a postponement or an absence of hiring. So at least you are not getting the normal inexorable, inevitable increase in hiring. But they did spend less money. I mean, the one thing we do know is for those two consecutive years we had two years, the first time since the Korean War, when there was an actual cut in discretionary spending, which is an achievement. Now we know how to do this. You take a meat cleaver -- everybody was saying, well, this is the wrong way to do it. You have to cut spending with a surgical knife. No, a surgical knife is too small. This is a mountain of waste. And for that you need a front loader. So you go at it in a fairly irrational way, but it does turn out that if you leave it to the agencies, they will be able to move the money around and decrease overall spending, I assume by eliminating pieces of or at least the spending of these departments of redundancies.

BAIER: The Pentagon spent some of that smaller pot of money on jet fuel made of algae.

KRAUTHAMMER: And this is what Tom Coburn has pointed out. Every time you want to cut, Democrats are saying orphans are going to end up in the snow, the border will be open. It's ridiculous. Everybody understands billions are wasted absolutely stupidly every year. And if you could start with that, you could have enormous reductions in spending. But the way to do it is to mandate the reductions in advance and then you say you do it to the agency.

BAIER: In other words, they have flexibility.

KRAUTHAMMER: And they will do it in the end if they have to, if that's the law.

BAIER: Ron, Harvard Composite Trust index, this gets to the broader sense about where people's thoughts are about government, and especially young people as they look at this place. Take a look at the dive on this chart. Just in that one span right there, 31 percent, that's significant.

FOURNIER: If you go back to the mid-'60s, '70s, you'll see even a steeper and longer decline. It's heading off the table. And I think we do learn two lessons. One you were just talking about Charles, and the other confirms the fact that we can't trust anything. We can't trust anything these guys and gals say in this city. Republican or Democrat, on both sides in this case, they both claim that there was going to be disastrous implications, and they were wrong. And they probably should have known they were wrong.

BAIER: There is this story, Chicken Little, you know, the sky is falling. But eventually one time the sky will fall and nobody is going to move.

CARLSON: But see Chicken Little didn't have a constituency. Constituencies are what this is all about. So when it comes right down to it, every job is sacred. That's always the argument in Washington, this is the one job you can't cut. You should keep in mind every one of those jobs contains a voter who is going to vote for probably the person defending him. So that's a meaningful component.

But if you want to cut government, you really have to cut the jobs.  Keep in mind that the average federal worker makes a lot more and has vastly better benefits than his contemporary, his equivalent in the private sector. And so the costs are on the back end here. You can't just furlough people, reduce jet fuel costs. You have to cut positions.

BAIER: But is this eye opening to the people who say, we can do this, we can cut in an effective way and not have the wrath of voters or the federal government?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, I'm not sure that it's the fear of the reaction of the voter. I think it's simply what's called the iron triangle, the constituencies, the lobbyists, the bureaucrats themselves exert that pressure. But one example of the sacredness of this spending is Head Start. Everybody worships at the altar. You don't want to hurt the little children. But then the studies come out that show that there are no residual effects beyond the third grade and we are spending something like $8 billion a year on it. But nobody will touch it.

CARLSON: It's only been 50 years. Do you think it's fair to assess it after just 50 year?

KRAUTHAMMER: Much too early to draw any conclusion. It's got to be at least a millennium and that's what we're shooting for.


FOURNIER: The real problem for Democrats is I could give you eight arguments why I think Head Start is a good program and they've all been undercut by the fact that the Democrat Party and Republican Party, but especially Democratic Party, the White House said we couldn't make these cuts in the federal government without the world falling apart, and nothing happened. This really undercuts the Democratic argument that an activist government can make the world a better place.

BAIER: I should point out about the GAO report, this is dealing with federal government jobs, it doesn't say how many jobs were lost in the private sector as a result of cutbacks because of the sequester. So if someone lost a private sector job, that's a different --

KRAUTHAMMER: Those are probably immeasurable. It's like the administration saying how many theoretical jobs were saved by the stimulus and the recession. There's no way to measure that.

BAIER: Next up, the latest from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on a host of topics.

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