Empty meat case

Sequestration has arrived – so be prepared to find rotten meat in your grocery store, if you can find any meat at all. Low-income shoppers will starve, supermarket employees will be fired and military grocery stores will padlock their doors. And that’s in addition to prisoners running free, bad guys streaming across the borders and planes falling out of the skies.

Not all of that will happen, of course. Maybe none of it will. But some of it might.

The failure of our government leaders to come to an agreement and avoid automatic budget cuts, means those automatic budget cuts will now take effect. Government agencies will now need to figure out how to make $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts. Many cuts are likely to come in the form of furloughed government employees – saving money, by giving staff some unpaid days off.

So the general public won’t see any effects right away. But one place where the cuts may hit close to home is at the grocery store. That government-inspected meat your grocery store sells? There may not be enough government inspectors to keep up with it all. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service may be forced to furlough meat inspectors for up to 15 days this year. And if meat isn’t inspected, companies can’t deliver it to your grocery store.

Some critics accused Vilsack of fear-mongering, by suggesting that the furloughs could happen all at once. Sidelining all 8,400 inspectors for more than two weeks would cripple the meat packing and processing industries, and would indeed lead to empty meat cases at your grocery store. Vilsack later suggested the furloughs could be staggered, which would mitigate the impact but not eliminate it. “At some point, you’re going to have shortages,” he told Reuters. “The reality is there are going to be disruptions.”


One economist says the trickle-down effect of the sequester could reach grocery store employees as well. If “people who lost their jobs buy less groceries, everyone who works in the grocery store is affected,” John Virkler tells Huntsville, Alabama’s WAFF. “Maybe one or two employees may lose their jobs.”

WIC recipients are also worried. The Women, Infants and Children program that provides assistance to low-income mothers and young children may also be forced to scale back. The National WIC Association says they’ll have to reduce their assistance by 5.1 percent, meaning some recipients could see reduced benefits, or none at all.

As the largest government agency, the Defense Department is likely to be affected the most. The Pentagon says as many as 800,000 civilian workers will have to be furloughed one day a week. And civilians run the military’s Commissary grocery stores. Unlike Vilsack’s plan to stagger his department’s furloughs, the Defense Commissary Agency may do them all at once. According to a memo to Commissary employees obtained by the Military Times, the plan is for most commissaries around the world to close on Wednesdays, the slowest sales day of the week, from April through September. A Commissary spokesman did not immediately confirm the contents of the memo. But the Commissary has already cut back on hiring, travel and other nonessential expenses in anticipation of the sequester.

If military families have nowhere to get their groceries one day a week – or have to go off base to get them – some don’t consider that to be a bad thing. Critics who’ve suggested the Commissaries should be privately-run, say they wouldn’t be forced to close if they didn’t count on government funding in the first place. The Defense Commissary Agency’s leading critic, Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn, argues that eliminating the government subsidy for U.S.-based Commissaries would save about $1.4 billion a year (read: “No Commissaries, No Problem?”).

Other Republicans, and even some Democrats, are okay with the concept of automatic budget cuts. Democratic Representative Ral Grijalva of Arizona tells CNBC that the cuts will force the Pentagon to finally rein in its overspending. “We have got to get spending under control,” adds Republican Senator Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania. “This is a crude way to do it, but at least it’s moving in that direction.”

As long as you don’t mind uninspected meat.


  1. I love your comment, Barbee.

    I’m more than a little disappointed in “Coupons in the News” helping spread this Chicken Little message for the government. We all know government spending has increased exponentially over the past few years, while most of our family incomes have dropped drastically. I can barely afford to buy the essentials for my family, much less continue to support a bloated government with my tax dollars.

    The sequestration cuts will not reduce the current spending rate. They are only reducing their planned increase in spending this year, SO THERE IS NO ACTUAL REDUCTION IN SPENDING AT ALL. There is no excuse for these so-called “cuts” to adversely affect all the things the administration claims. They have admitted before that about 5% of their spending is waste and fraud. Why not start there, instead of laying off essential personnel? Or, why not lower these people’s salaries to the equivalent of private sector employees?

    I am sick of the scare tactics used by this administration to try to convince us that they cannot reduce spending at all. Government should not be allowed to spend more money than it takes in. PERIOD.

    By the way, I am conservative, but I am just as disgusted with the Republicans as I am with the Democrats.

    • Appreciate you both and your opinions as always!

      I do hope you take some of this in the spirit in which it was intended – “planes falling out of the skies”? It’s outlandish but not far from some of the fear-mongering that is going on.

      It would be unfortunate if any of this happened, instead of having actual government waste targeted, in order to make a political point.

      And to your point – yes, a “cut” is not the same as a “reduction in the rate of increase” – it’s a shorthand but a misleading one.

      • Thanks for letting me vent! For the record, I did understand that your opening paragraph was tongue-in-cheek, and you did take a even-handed approach to the subject. My purpose for responding to this article was to set the record straight since the media has really been playing it up and not bothering to report the facts. I shouldn’t have fussed at you. You do a great job in keeping us up-to-date on the happenings in the grocery and coupon world. (And I love the sarcasm in your articles!) Please forgive my testiness today. It’s just that I’m so tired from spending last night bracing for the impact of sequestration.

    • Great to hear you perspective, Lisa.
      I totally agree that the ‘crisis of the week’ is a well orchestrated program of hyperbole and scare tactics.
      I will go one step further and suggest that it’s a full fledged campaign: a psychological war.
      Being carried out against the American people.

      It’s a tragedy-very few seem to notice/or care to notice.

  2. LOL-This is hysterical! I had no idea you wrote humor.

    Don’t worry. Everything will be just fine as long as the budget cuts only release foreign prisoners. And we had to release them to insure plenty of prison cells, beds and guards for non-violent American citizens.
    Oh and lets not cut into the military budgets of Egypt and the Muslim Brotherghood-that’s always a top priority.

    Last but not least: I absolutely draw the line on cutting the vacation, entertainment, wardrobe budgets of the 1st family.
    Besides, what’s 8 million dollars for a weeks vacation? That’s a pittance. And they reserve it. They have worked so hard and done so much for us. A well deserved reward for a job well done!(& absolutely everyone knows that the USDA can’t pay MEAT inspectors with paltry sums like that.)

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