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Buck McKeon, Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee
Rep. Buck McKeon
Ignore the Labor Department.

That's the advice Republican Buck McKeon has for the defense industry. McKeon is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. The advice he's telling defense corporations to ignore has to do with a Labor Department memo regarding layoff notices that some of those corporations have threatened to send to tens of thousands of their workers four days before the Nov. 6 elections.

The issue is sequestration, the horror-child offspring of last August's budget deal. The deal set up a bipartisan Super Committee to come up with $1.5 trillion in budget cuts. If it couldn't, sequestration would occur. That is, the budget authority over nine years would be cut by $1.2 trillion, half from defense, half from non-defense spending. As many critics predicted, the Super Committee couldn't agree on balanced cuts, and sequestration will take effect Jan. 2 unless Congress intervenes with some new deal.

That intervention began five minutes after the deadlock was announced.

Republicans were quick to argue against the defense portion of the cuts. No surprise since their presumptive nominee for the presidency wants to raise the defense budget by at least $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Republicans led by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan came up with the Sequester Replacement Act of 2012. It would eliminate the even split between defense and domestic cuts (and make even deeper cuts than the original budget deal of August 2011).

Since nobody knows whether sequestration will even occur, and if it does, which companies, much less which employees would be affected, it might be expected in a sane world that there would be a wait-and-see approach. But, no surprise, that's not how the game is played.

Enter Robert Stevens CEO of aircraft maker Lockheed-Martin, a company that took in nearly $32 billion for its work on Pentagon contracts in 2011 (plus $8 billion in other government contracts) and employs 120,000 employees. Stevens informed Congress that the company "might be required to lay off about 10,000 employees." And that would require 60-day advance notification under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. He also said the company would have to notify its 40,000 suppliers of the coming disruption to business.

But since we don't know exactly who will be affected, our best judgment is that we may have to notify a substantially higher number of our employees ... that they may not have a job if sequestration takes place."
That's not the way the Labor Department views things. In its memo, the department states that blanket notices like those Lockheed proposes to send are out of line. For one thing, such notices must include very specific information, including the plant(s) that will be closed, the expected date of the first separation, and "the job titles of positions to be affected, and the number of affected employees in each job classification" and an indication of whether "bumping rights" will be allowed. Obviously, none of that can be included in such layoff notices. There is no reason to alarm workers about something that may not happen, the memo states.

Indeed. No surprise that the real purpose behind the notices is politics, a tool provided just in time for the election.

“To think that one of the agencies of the Obama administration would give guidance not to follow the law of the land—a judge would laugh at that,” McKeon told reporters.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, disagreed. “This is an important and correct interpretation of the law,” he said in a statement. “There is no reason to needlessly alarm hundreds of thousands of workers.”

Democrats who went along with sequestration must have known what an idiotic idea it was in the first place. As if a bipartisan committee would operate as some latter-day deus ex machina to get them out of the bind they put themselves into. Experience ought to have taught them that Republicans would never agree to defense cuts, sequester or no sequester, and that the threat of such cuts would be used as an electioneering cudgel.

And that's where we are now, with Republicans encouraging defense companies to give the pfffffft to the Labor Department's directive on layoff notices. They know full well they will soon be on the campaign trail blaming the Obama administration for those notices hinting at layoffs that may not happen. One thing they aren't doing is suggesting layoff notices be sent by companies that will be affected if sequestration (or the GOP's proposal for a more draconian cut) goes forward on domestic spending.

No surprise.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (18+ / 0-)

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 11:43:11 AM PDT

  •  I don't know if contractors want their budget (7+ / 0-)

    being a major campaign issue because I'd be willing to bet a lot of people don't know how much the US spends on defense compared to the rest of the world - especially considering something like 8 of the remaining top ten are allies.  

    And if the GOP wants to make the case that it's about jobs - than why wouldn't they spend on teachers, police and firefighters because it would raise the deficit, but now whine that they need to spend hundreds of billions America doesn't have to the war machine or jobs will be lost?

    DOD Contractors want a deal cut in the Washington backrooms where their dirty lobbyist money has the most power.  

  •  So I guess McKeon and his fellow Republicans agree (8+ / 0-)

    that cutting federal spending can hurt the economy?  Or is it only cuts to spending that Republicans like which hurt the economy?

    And by admitting that private companies like Lockheed Martin are so reliant on government spending for their livelihoods, aren't Republicans like McKeon essentially admitting that President Obama was right about the whole "you didn't build that" flap?

    "Better the occasional faults of a Government that lives in the spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by puakev on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 11:58:33 AM PDT

    •  LASER GUIDED BULLSEYE (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      puakev, Hey338Too, divineorder

      ^^ this comment... boom

    •  There is so much WIN here if Democrats played (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      puakev, Hey338Too, divineorder, arlene

      their cards right. Or, more specifically, if Obama plays his cards right.

      The whole debt deal/sequestration canard should be exposed for exactly what it is: hostage taking by Republicans. It's an easy argument to present---

      1) Republican economics are killing the country.
      2) Willard Rmoney will make sure Republican economics kill the country.

      •  Totally agree... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chrississippi, divineorder

        ... the key here is to boil it down into something that the casual voter can digest.  Unfortunately little of this argument can be made in 30 second increments.

        I haven't been here long enough to be considered a Kossack, does that mean that I'm just a sack?

        by Hey338Too on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 12:57:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chrississippi, divineorder

        but of course, conservatives really do believe that spending on defense is totally fine and money is no object when it comes to national security, so it's very possible that an argument that is so devastatingly logical as the one you outline would not work on them.  Because they are not motivated by logical consistency but by pure self-interest.

        Specifically, many conservatives work in the defense industry or are in the military, so they see the benefits of that kind of federal spending.  When defense gets cut, the friends and relatives and co-workers of these conservatives lose jobs and directly feel the effect.  

        However, when it comes to food stamps or Medicaid, these are out of sight, out of mind, and since most conservatives don't see for themselves the benefits of such spending, it's easier for them to dismiss it as unnecessary.  What does it matter for them if minorities in the inner cities have their food stamps reduced or cut off?  Doesn't affect them or the people they know, so who cares?  

        Which is why I am reluctant to brand such people fiscal conservatives, because that would attribute to them some principled belief in government economy.  They are "I got mine" conservatives.

        They have far more in common with the old conservative Southern Democrats of yesteryear who railed against any spending that might benefit poor folks and black people, but were also the biggest purveyors of pork-barrel spending and who never met a defense appropriation they didn't like.

        This was partly out of pure jingoism on their part, but also because of the proliferation of defense installations in their districts and states, as well as the huge number of their "rugged individualist" constituents who were (and still are) so dependent on defense spending by either being enlisted in or working for the military in some capacity.

        The only difference is that today the Southern Democrat brand of conservatism has spread to most of the rural and suburban, conservative, mostly white enclaves in all regions of the country.

        "Better the occasional faults of a Government that lives in the spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

        by puakev on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 01:09:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, that's it exactly (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          puakev
          They are "I got mine" conservatives.
          Unfortunately I know far too many of that kind.

          How did Supreme Court decision ACA help the 23 million still uncovered? Ask the 18,000 Doctors of PNHP -- they're not waiting, FORWARD now to pass H.R. 676, the “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act .

          by divineorder on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 06:53:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  MB isn't it even possible that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    puakev

    some Democrats have been in collusion all along, not wanting the war profiteer welfare cuts?

    Experience ought to have taught them that Republicans would never agree to defense cuts, sequester or no sequester, and that the threat of such cuts would be used as an electioneering cudgel.
    This push to scare workers is part of the long term use of the jobs by companies like Lockheed who open in key districts to influence Congressional appropriations.  

    This move by Lockheed  is just the current use by War Profiteers use of perception management to sway voters and Congress.

    War Costs blog

    With Needed Defense Cuts on the Horizon, Industry Forces Rev Up the Propaganda MachinePosted by John Amick · July 18, 2012 11:14 AM

    How did Supreme Court decision ACA help the 23 million still uncovered? Ask the 18,000 Doctors of PNHP -- they're not waiting, FORWARD now to pass H.R. 676, the “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act .

    by divineorder on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 12:24:43 PM PDT

  •  Lindsey Graham (0+ / 0-)

    was part of it too, and had a few somewhat-reasonable things to say about it.

    Then he decided to verbally defecate on the whole thing:

    http://veracitystew.com/...

    Politicians, you know, quite frankly respond to pressure . . . I’m urging every defense industry that could be affected by sequestration to put your employees on notice before November,” he continued. “The more it becomes real to us as to what comes the nation’s way, the more likely we are to solve the problem.

    liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

    by RockyMtnLib on Mon Aug 06, 2012 at 07:47:38 PM PDT

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