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Fact Check Friday: Getting The Truth As The Sequester Takes Effect

Things May Not Be What They Seem In Some Cases, Says FactCheck.org
Teacher, Meat, and the LaGuardia Airport control tower (credits: clipart.com, clipart.com, Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Teacher, Meat, and the LaGuardia Airport control tower (credits: clipart.com, clipart.com, Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Airport control towers closing, teachers laid off, and meat going bad or uninspected. These are the claims, some exaggerated, from both sides about these automatic spending cuts starting Friday with the sequester.

That’s where Fact Check Friday comes into play.

It’s when we, with the help of factcheck.org, a nonpartisan non-profit part of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, we uncover who is telling the truth and who is saying something else.

Let’s start with teachers.

“As many as 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told Major Garrett on CBS News “Face the Nation.”

Is he right?

“No,” factcheck.org’s Eugene Kiely told WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot. “He said 40,000 teachers. What he mean to say was 40,000 education jobs because it’s not just teachers. It would be teachers’ aides and other jobs related to education.”

Kiely said the cut would be $2.8 billion roughly and what they did was merely divide that number by $70,000, which they say is the average teacher salary and benefits.

“But that assumes that every single cut that the DOE makes would come from teacher salaries,” Kiely said.

What about what Republicans and what they’re saying about the spending side and how it needs to be tamed?

“To not cut two and half percent out of the total budget over a year when it’s twice the size it was ten years ago? Give me a break,” Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Is the federal government twice the size it was 10 years ago?

“Well, yes and no,” said Kiely. “What the Senator’s referring to is in raw dollars. That doesn’t take into account the population increase, inflation. So, if you just look at inflation, then you’re talking about an increase of about 50 percent.”

“Coburn is trying to minimize the impact of the sequester. Duncan is trying to scare us with some big scary numbers that won’t come true,” Kiely added.

Was President Barack Obama trying to scare us when he said the following?

“So, economists are estimating that, as a consequence of this sequester, that we could see growth cut by over one half of one percent. It will cost about 750,000 jobs at a time when we should be growing jobs more quickly.”

“That is accurate. That comes from the Congressional Budget Office,” Kiely said.

As for meat, the White House has warned that 6,300 meat and poultry plants could slow production or temporarily shut down under the across-the-board cuts, which may force U.S. Department of Agriculture to furlough meat inspectors for up to 15 days through Sept. 30. By law, those plants cannot operate without Food Safety and Inspection Service workers present to ensure products are safe for consumption.

Critics say the warnings of shutdowns are exaggerated and their likelihood is slim. But if they happen, the pain would disproportionately hurt meatpacking towns such as Columbus Junction, Iowa, a hardscrabble city of 1,900 in southeastern Iowa that has long been driven by the gritty business of turning Iowa’s nation-leading hog population into food.

How else will you see the cuts? CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported the following:

* For 3.8 million Americans, weekly unemployment benefits will be sliced by 10 percent

* If you’re planning to travel for spring break or the busy summer season there is the potential for longer airport security lines and flight delays. But the 90 minutes promised by the Obama administration? That’s hard to say at this point.

WCBS 880’s Steve Scott, in Friday’s Eye on Politics, spoke with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who said that cuts to air traffic controllers will slow things down for air traffic.

EXTRA: Eye on Politics – Steve Scott with Ray LaHood

“There could be 60 to 90 minute delays,” LaHood told Scott.

Can that be fact checked?

“I haven’t tried to fact check it. But others who have looked at it came away frustrated because it’s just not something you can fact check. You don’t know what the impact’s going to be until, unfortunately, it happens.”

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …