WASHINGTON -- The debate over sequestration this past week has come down to two questions: Was the administration exaggerating the impact of the spending cuts, and did they really need to shut down White House tours because of them?
It's been the predominant theme at the White House briefings, a constant subject of discussion on cable news and a topic of fascination on Capitol Hill. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) even took up the cause at a press briefing this week, saying: "I think it's silly that they have insisted on locking down the White House, which the American people actually own."
Beneath that debate, however, is a different type of conversation about the impact of the $85 billion in cuts. While the national media has focused on those two questions, local coverage has been more directed at the tangible impact the budget restraints will have. The Huffington Post reviewed dozens of local television news broadcasts, using the service TVeyes.com, to survey coverage of sequestration outside of the Beltway.
The local stations didn't ignore the controversy over the White House tours being closed, and several broadcasts featured political analysts arguing that sequestration's impact had been dramatically overhyped by the administration. But they did tend to dig more deeply into the ramifications of the cuts, looking at how people around the country -- besides the lucky Americans who get to tour the White House each year -- will be affected in their daily lives.
Watch a mash-up video of these local news reports and the debate taking place in Washington:
Video mash-up created by Amber Genuske.
Some other examples:
- Recovery efforts following a tornado in Atlanta are being drained of federal help because of sequestration related cuts. [WAGA-TV]
- The Georgia Department of Labor is figuring out how to reduce unemployment benefits by nearly 11 percent starting on March 31. [WSB-TV]
- The Spokane County Meals On Wheels is looking at a $45,000 budget cut. "I'm scared," the program quoted one official with the group saying. "How do we keep serving all the people that need it?" [KREM-TV]
- Cleanup efforts following the Hanford nuclear leak in Washington state are complicated by171 million in sequester-related budget cuts. "The largest part of those cuts would be in underground tank management," reported KCPQ in Seattle. "New leaks were just discovered in six of those tanks." [KCPQ-TV, KPTV-TV]
Watch the KPTV report:
- Border protection agencies in Arizona and elsewhere plan to furlough employees for up to 14 days, with notices already sent out to 24,000 people nationwide. [KPNX-TV]
- Sequestration will likely increase homelessness across Arizona. "In Maricopa county there is a waiting list for rental assistance with 3,700 names on it," reported KPNX. "That list is now closed and it could be a long time before anyone can get on it. [KPNX-TV]
- Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is cutting $623,000 from its budget because of sequestration, resulting in fewer employees, slower emergency response, and continued closure of the glacier basin campground. [KTVD-TV]
- Bell Helicopters in Fort Worth, Texas, has started offering incentive programs to workers to encourage them to retire early so that they can save money to deal with sequestration. [KDAF-TV]
- Twenty-three Tooele County employees around Salt Lake City were already laid off because of sequestration. "I thought it was a secure job, but apparently not," said one laid-off employee. [KTSU-TV]
Watch the KTSU report:
- The San Diego Housing Commission is staring at $7.5 million in cuts. [KSWB-TV]
- Little Rock, Ark., faces potential losses in funding for domestic violence prevention services. [KARK-TV]
- Mississippi food pantries are likely to take a hit with officials expecting "to see more people in line." [WAPT-TV]
- Advocates in Kansas City, Mo., are going to Washington to try and prevent expended cuts to scientific research into disease control and prevention. [KCTV-TV]
- Advocates in Nevada are pleading with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to try and protect food banks that the state's children depend on. [KTVN-TV]
- KABB in San Antonio reported that $140 million of the $150 million in federal grants that the city received could be endangered by sequestration, "affecting programs like Head Start, transportation programs for seniors and WIC (nutritional programs for women, infants and children)." [KABB-TV]
- Housing officials in Austin, Texas are bracing for the forthcoming penny pinch. "Austin currently serves about 18,000 Austinites and has close to 10,000 residents on the waitlist for public housing and rental assistance," the report went, "so, every dollar from the government counts." [KTBC-TV]
Watch the KTBC report:
- Detroit's airport is closing its control tower, forcing "pilots to coordinate their own arrivals and departures." [WXYZ-TV]
- Four local airport towers are closing in San Francisco. [KGO-TV]
- Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg, Fla., is closing its tower. [WFTS-TV]
- Six air traffic control towers are closing in Oklahoma. [KJRH-TV]
- One official near a military base in St. Louis estimates that there could be a $28 million economic impact in the region. [KSDK-TV]
- Approximately 8,500 civilian defense employees at Fort Bragg are facing furloughs, and "officials and business owners say that could have a trickle down effect on the local economy" and that "the sequester will also impact schools at Fort Bragg and its five thousand students." [WRAL-TV]
Not every station was convinced that sequestration would spell doom for their communities, and a more thorough search of local television programs beyond the major markets could of course be done. But the coverage was pretty consistent at the local level, revealing that viewers of these channels are getting a different story about the ramifications of the budget cuts than those simply consuming their news from cable television.