Sequester layoffs could sway elections in battleground states
Whether or not Congress is able to act in time to divert a $500 billion tranche of defense budget cuts set to take effect in January, the looming threat of the sequestration “meat axe” may well sway the electorate in some of the most hotly contested regions in the country.
The most recent call for alarm on sequestration has come from major defense contractors, who will be forced to lay off a significant percentage of their work force if sequestration presses the Defense Department to abandon many of their active contracts. Sequestration, is the term assigned to a slate of just over $1 trillion worth of budget cuts that will be split evenly between defense department and domestic programs over the next decade as part of an agreement reached under the 2011 Budget Control Act.
The companies, in keeping with the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, would have to provide at least 60 days notice to employees prior to the layoffs, this means pink slips would arrive in early November at the latest—prior to the election, and to any potential lame-duck effort in Congress after the election to avert the cuts.
Officers at Lockheed Martin have announced they plan to put most of their 123,000 employees on notice, still unsure who they will have to lay off. Boeing leaders have complained they still have no idea where they will need to cut, since the details of sequestration have not been made explicit by the Office of Management and Budget.
“Without that guidance we have no idea how this is going to impact our business,” Dan Stohr, a spokesman for the Aerospace Industries Association, told Human Events. “We just know it’s going to be bad. There’s already been a slowdown in hiring. There’s already been a slowdown in investment.”
And in this environment of “angst,” Virginia-based Republican strategist Chris LaCivita said, voters may take new perspective to the polls with them.
Virginia to be hurt most
The political battleground of Virginia Beach is expected to be devastated by sequestration. The region, home to contracting giants General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, stands to lose at least $200 million in contract revenue, or about nine percent of what it made last year, and nearly 400 defense contracts, according to research compiled by the Center for Security Policy.
Overall, the state of Virginia may lose the most of any state through sequestration: nearly $5 billion in revenue and over 60,000 private-sector jobs, according to research compiled by the center and George Mason University.
“Obama’s reelection, in my opinion, starts and ends through Virginia Beach. That’s clearly the tip of the spear in a lot of ways,” LaCivita said.
LaCivita said he has been advising the region’s Republican Congressional incumbent Scott Rigell, a House Armed Services Committee member who introduced legislation this year that would have averted the sequester. The issue will be prominent in his reelection campaign, and Rigell has already collected $22,000 in contributions from Lockheed, Boeing, GenDyn, and Northrop to reclaim the seat.
“One thing voters get is jobs, pink slips, and a bad economy,” LaCivita said. “Those are issues that are going to be clearly borne out in this election cycle.”
He is also hopeful that the issue could hold sway in more historically Democratic states like Connecticut, where $1 billion and about 18,000 jobs are on the line with the sequester.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told Human Events at a recent Heritage Foundation briefing that he doesn’t know how the prospect of sequestration and the pending barrage of pink slips can help but impact the election.
“The people that haven’t been focusing on it, haven’t been thinking about it, are going to get a real wake up call,” he said.