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May 242013
 

Image Source/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The federal budget sequester may be dampening a rise in economic optimism: Nearly four in 10 Americans now say sequestration has hurt them personally, up substantially since it began in March — and they’re far less sanguine than others about the economy’s prospects overall.

Thirty-seven percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say they’ve been negatively impacted by the budget cuts, up from 25 percent in March. As previously, about half of those affected say the harm has been “major.”

Those who are hurt, holler. Among people who report no personal impact of the sequester, 66 percent say economic recovery is under way, and six in 10 are optimistic about the economy’s prospects in the year ahead. Among those who report major harm from the cuts, by contrast, just 36 percent see recovery, and optimism drops to 40 percent.

As reported earlier this week, optimism about the economy is advancing; 56 percent of Americans now say it’s begun to recover, up by 20 percentage points in the past year and a half to the most since ABC and the Post first asked the question in late 2009. Results on the sequester suggest that could be better still had the cuts not taken effect.

More Americans continue to disapprove than approve of sequestration, now by 56-35 percent — again, a view influenced by experience of the cuts. Eight in 10 of those who report serious harm oppose the cuts, as do about two-thirds of those slightly harmed. But the majority, which has felt no impacts, divides exactly evenly — 46 percent favor the cuts, vs. 46 percent opposed.

Further, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that 39 percent overall “strongly” disapprove of the cuts — but that soars to 66 percent of those who say they’ve been harmed in a major way. (Just 16 percent overall strongly approve.)

Experience of the cuts even trumps partisanship and ideology: Among Republicans, conservatives and Tea Party supporters who’ve been harmed by the cuts, most oppose them. Support is far higher among those in these groups who haven’t felt an impact of sequestration.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the partisan nature of the debate, views of the cuts don’t divide sharply along party lines. Majorities of Democrats and Republicans alike oppose the cuts — 59 and 54 percent, respectively — as do a similar 58 percent of independents.

One reason: Republicans are 14 points more apt than Democrats to say they’ve been harmed by the sequester. And among Republicans who’ve been hurt by the cuts, 68 percent disapprove of them. Among those unhurt, disapproval drops to 42 percent.

Forty-seven percent of “very” conservative Americans approve of the cuts, as do 42 percent of those who call themselves “somewhat” conservative. It’s 36 percent among moderates and 24 percent among liberals. But again, impacts of the cuts are a bigger factor in views on the issue. Among conservatives hurt by the cuts, 65 percent disapprove of them; among those unhurt, just 34 percent disapprove.

Similarly, 66 percent of Tea Party supporters who’ve been damaged by the cuts disapprove, vs. 44 percent of those who report no personal impact.

While Barack Obama has been a sharp critic of sequestration, he only runs 43-38 percent against the Republicans in Congress in trust to handle the budget deficit, not a significant difference. He’s done much better on the issue, but also worse; the tables were turned as recently as two years ago, when Obama trailed the GOP in trust to handle the deficit by 8 points.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 102013
 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The secretary of the Army and the Army chief of staff have told senators that sequestration could hurt efforts to deal with sexual assaults within their branch of the military.

In a written statement submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 23, Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said the across-the-board budget cuts mandated as part of the sequester could hurt their Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program “from slowing hiring actions, to delaying lab results which hinders our ability to provide resolution for victims.”

A Defense Department study released Tuesday showed there were 3,374 reports of sexual assault made in 2012, and DOD estimated a total of 26,000 instances of unwanted sexual contact occurred.
The Army has had the highest rate of victims reporting sexual assault compared to active duty military service among the five branches, at least since 2007.

In their oral testimony in April, the Army leaders stressed the importance of working with soldiers from their first days in the service through the rest of their military careers to ensure they see sexual harassment and assault as serious problems.

“It is just about constantly talking about this problem and constantly ensuring that people understand we are going to take this seriously. And it’s as frustrating to all of us, I know, as it is to you, senator,” Gen. Odierno told Senator Kay Hagan. “I wish I had a better answer for you frankly.”

The statement from April said the Army planned to add 829 full-time military and civilian sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates to combat the problem within the branch.

Wednesday the Army Secretary told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Army faces $7.6 billion in sequestration cuts between April and September. Gen. Odierno said that in part has left them with a $13-billion budget shortfall and requested Congress delay the cuts for the Army for “later years.”

“We are sacrificing readiness to achieve reductions inside the short period of the fiscal year. And unfortunately, readiness can’t ever be bought back, because there’s a time component of readiness,” he said. “It’s just not the size of the cuts but it’s the steepness of the cuts required by sequestration, especially close in, which make it impossible to downsize the force in a deliberate, logical manner that allow us to sustain the appropriate balance between readiness, modernization and end strength.”

Army Public Affairs Officer Lt. Col. S. Justin Platt told ABC News Thursday that despite sequestration, “the Army will continue provide care, support and treatment for” victims of sexual assault.

Lawmakers met with members of the Obama administration at the White House Thursday afternoon to discuss how to combat sexual assault in the military going forward.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 012013
 

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Richard M. Wolff(NEW YORK) — It’s not the Air Force holding a bake sale to buy a bomber, but the United Services Organization is holding a fundraiser to keep Fleet Week afloat after it was torpedoed by sequester cuts.

The USO sent out its fundraising pitch email this week.

In light of across-the-board spending cuts mandated in the sequester, the Defense Department has said the Armed Forces cannot spend money on outreach opportunities like Fleet Week, the time each May when members of the Marines, Navy and the Coast Guard come ashore in coastal cities to celebrate with civilians and give shows to the public. The event was originally scheduled for the week of Memorial Day.

“Will we allow this opportunity to demonstrate America’s support of our men and women in uniform pass us by?” retired Col. Jack Jacobs asked readers in the email for the USO. “Not on our watch!”

The email pledges that the organization will “keep the spirit of Fleet Week alive” and “make our military appreciation and Memorial Day events better than ever before.”

“Although the sequester has created a large gap to close, with YOUR help – we can do it!” Jacobs wrote.

USO of Metropolitan New York hopes to raise $75,000 in donations to host events between Armed Forces Day and the week of Memorial Day.

Supporting the troops and military families is a year-round endeavor that involves hundreds of events annually, according to Gayle Fishel, director of media relations for the USO.

“While we do not know what events are tied to sequestration, it is clear that today’s environment makes the services and programs that the USO provides even more important,” Fishel told ABC News in an email Wednesday. “Fleet Week in New York City is one of the many ways, and an important way, we support the troops and families and continue to be always by their side.”

The Navy and Air Force both cancelled all shows for their flight demonstration teams, the Blue Angels and the Thunder Birds, for the rest of the fiscal year, citing sequestration as the cause for the cuts.

Fort Bragg, a major American Army base in North Carolina, was forced to cancel its Independence Day celebration because of the cuts as well.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Apr 272013
 

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Aviation Administration announced Saturday that it is suspending employee furloughs and will restore normal staffing levels at air traffic facilities by Sunday evening, easing more than a week of major delays because of cutbacks in air traffic control.

“The FAA has suspended all employee furloughs. Air traffic facilities will begin to return to regular staffing levels over the next 24 hours and the system will resume normal operations by Sunday evening,” the FAA said in a statement.

On Friday, Congress passed legislation which provides the FAA with transfer authority for $253 million until October to restore the staffing levels at the nation’s airports which have encountered major airline delays over the past week as the furloughs have hit air traffic controllers.

A White House official told ABC News’ Jeff Zeleny that President Obama was set to sign the legislation over the weekend but must now wait until Tuesday so that a spelling error in the measure can be corrected.

In his weekly address Saturday, the president called the legislation merely a “Band-Aid” and said Congress must end the cuts impacting other services stemming from $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester.

“These cuts are scheduled to keep falling across other parts of the government that provide vital services for the American people,” the president said. “We can’t just keep putting Band-Aids on every cut.  It’s not a responsible way to govern.  There is only one way to truly fix the sequester: by replacing it before it causes further damage.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Apr 272013
 

iStockphoto(WASHINGTON) — Legislators were quick to pass a bill this week that ends furloughs for air traffic controllers in response to the numerous flight delays their absence caused. However, it seems they may have been a little too hasty, as the signing of the bill has been delayed due to a typo in the bill’s text.

According to a senior White House official, President Obama was prepared to sign the bill on Saturday morning, but now must wait until Tuesday because a spelling error in the bill must first be corrected.

It’s unclear when exactly the air traffic controller furloughs and flight delays will end.

Republican Rep. Aaron Schock says that lawmakers are working hard to fix the mess.

“Look, we drive on the same roads as the tax payers, we stand in the same TSA lines as our fellow tax payers so I don’t think this is anything other than trying to do what’s best for our constituents,” Schock said.

There are some who aren’t happy with the bill for reasons bigger than a typo. Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen doesn’t like that the legislation seems to claim that airline travelers deserve special treatment compared to others affected by the sequester.

“Sometimes the problems of the most politically strong and well connected groups get addressed but the folks that get left behind are the kids on Head Start programs, their seniors on Meals on Wheels,” Van Hollen said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio