The Sequester is Here – Not What?

Dear Commons Community,

The sequester is here and now we have to wait and see what it means.  Some have said that the sky will fall and others that it will not change much of anything.  In the New York Times opinion pages today we have both sides of the argument.

On one side, the New York Times editorial cautions:

“As the cuts take effect, they will inflict widespread hardship. But some Americans will be hurt more than others, and the people who will be hurt the most are those who are already struggling. In the months ahead, an estimated 3.8 million Americans who have been unemployed for more than six months face a cut in federal jobless benefits of nearly 11 percent — or about $32 a week — all from the recent average weekly benefit of $292. And an estimated 600,000 low-income women and toddlers will be turned away from the federal nutrition program for women, infants and children, known as WIC.

It should not be this way. Deficit reduction should not occur on the backs of the poor and vulnerable. At the insistence of Democrats, most major programs that help the needy have been exempted from the cuts, including food stamps and Medicaid. Democrats also won exemptions for beneficiaries of programs that are not explicitly aimed at low-income Americans but that are crucial to keeping many retirees out of poverty or near-poverty, notably veterans’ pensions, Social Security and Medicare. Still, smaller, vital programs will fall under the knife, in part because they are in spending categories deemed dispensable under the unthinking rules for across-the-board cuts.”

On the other side on the op-ed page, Joe Scarborough comments:

“Mr. Obama seems to be the one who has overplayed his hand.

His predictions of a crippled military, contaminated food and unforeseen hurricanes will pack a political punch only if those projections come to pass. Republicans can be forgiven for asking what hardships most Americans can expect to face if sequestration actually allows spending to rise another $15 billion next year. How compromised will federal agencies’ missions really be, given that their budgets increased sizably during Mr. Obama’s first term?

How much pain will voters inflict on Republicans for following through on the Obama-originated plan to force automatic spending “cuts” that nonetheless maintain the dollars flowing from taxpayers to Washington? For all the warnings from the Pentagon, it’s worth noting that the defense budget will continue to grow even after the sequestration.

All this is not to say that such a crude approach to spending cuts isn’t shortsighted. And recklessly cutting discretionary spending does little to address America’s long-term debt crisis — which is supposedly why we pushed ourselves into the sequester in the first place.

But it is also a fact that this year’s reductions will not do great damage to domestic and defense programs. Congress will have $85 billion less to spend this year, but the Congressional Budget Office projects that the actual cuts implemented this year will amount to only $42 billion out of a $3.5 trillion budget. That means that politicians will have to cut a little more than a penny out of every dollar that it spends this year.”

We will see who is right over the next few weeks.  One thing is for sure about the sequester debate and that is our elected officials in Washington continue to demonstrate that they are incapable of leading our nation and instead prefer to  spend the vast majority of their time and energy on political posturing.



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