Despite doomsday predictions, report finds only 1 layoff from sequester cuts

Despite doomsday warnings from the White House and lawmakers on both sides that hundreds of thousands would lose their jobs as a result of the sequester, it turns out the budget cuts have only led to one job being lost among 23 federal agencies.

Now Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is demanding answers as to why the Obama administration repeatedly warned taxpayers that the $85.3 billion in spending cuts, which went into effect in March 2013, would threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs. The findings were revealed in a government watchdog report.

“Taxpayers expect us to root our predictions in fact, not ideology and spin,” Coburn said Wednesday in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Matthews Burwell.

In response, OMB spokesman Steve Posner said in a statement to there is "no question" the sequestration has had an negative impact on Americans, pointing out the report also states that employees had their hours reduced and agencies were forced to curtail hiring as a result of the cuts, among other examples.

The March report by the Government Accountability Office describes how 23 agencies and departments -- which appear to span most of the federal government -- complied with the cuts. Only one, the Department of Justice, decided to lay off a single employee in fiscal year 2013.

A spokeswoman for the GAO told the DOJ reported that the laid-off worker was from the the U.S. Parole Commission, but they had no other information about the employee. Virtually every other arm of the government turned to tactics like cutting overtime, reducing employee travel and putting workers on furlough to avoid actual firings.

The report is a stark contrast from the dire predictions from the Obama administration and Democratic leadership, who blamed Republicans for the cuts.

In a memo released before the sequester cuts went into effect, the White House claimed they “threaten hundreds of thousands of middle class jobs.” In a speech at the White House that February, President Obama repeated those claims.

"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," he said. "This is not an abstraction. People will lose their jobs."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid upped the doomsday rhetoric in July, according to the Washington Post, saying on the Senate floor over a million jobs were already lost.

“We have learned that the sequestration already has cut 1.6 million jobs. So we need job creation. We need to help the middle class by creating jobs,” he said.

Republicans also warned about the potential job-killing effect of the cuts, with House Speaker John Boehner claiming in a February 2013 Wall Street Journal op-ed “thousands of jobs” would be threatened.

Coburn said he wants Burwell, who has been nominated to lead the health department, to explain why the predictions were so drastically wrong.

“While that’s good news for federal employees and other workers, it is devastating to the credibility of Washington politicians and administration officials who spent months – and millions of dollars – engaging in a coordinated multi-agency cabinet-level public relations campaign to scare the American people,” he said.

Coburn noted two frequently cited government estimates by Goldman Sachs and the Congressional Budget Office, which predicted a loss of anywhere from 99,999 and 1,599,999 jobs, seem to have been way off base.

Posner said that many figures in the GAO report make clear that "sequestration had significant negative effects on services for the public as well as agency operations and federal workers." He said in the future, it may get even worse.

"GAO itself notes that many of the flexibilities used to mitigate the effects of sequestration in 2013 may not be available in future years, suggesting that the impacts would be even worse if sequestration is allowed to occur in future years," he said.