Are you ready for a skirmish over the sequester? President Obama is. We have 10 days until March 1, when $85 billion in across-the-board cuts go into effect if Congress doesn’t act. President Obama invited first responders to the White House today to make the case that this is about jobs. The president also added agents from the FBI and border control to the list of jobs cut if there’s a sequester. So what do you need to know about these looming “meat cleaver” cuts? We’ve compiled a list for you right here.
1. We created this situation. In order to spur some form of consensus-building on Capitol Hill, the idea of a “fiscal cliff” was drafted by top legislators. The intent was to force everyone’s hand by creating a finite deadline to draft comprehensive deficit reduction legislation, with the risk of irresponsible and heavy-handed budget cuts should the negotiations fail. However, the date of sequestration has now become the issue instead.
2. Why are the dates changing? The U.S. government should have plummeted off the fiscal cliff at the beginning of the year, but Congress voted to extend the deadline for the cuts until March 1. Although it’s unlikely a deal will materialize before then, another extension is possible, pushing the issue forward into late April or May.
3. Obama warns of “meat cleaver” cuts. President Obama has repeatedly warned what the sequester will mean if Congress fails to act. He recently referred to them as “meat cleaver” cuts at an event with first responders. Projections estimate that the full $85 billion cut for fiscal 2013 would cost the United States 750,000 jobs and 1.5 percent of annual growth.
4. The parties agree. On the threat posed by these across the board cuts, both Republicans and Democrats prophesize doom and gloom. House Speaker John Boehner said, “I don’t like the sequester. I think it’s like taking a meat ax to our government.” But the parties disagree on the solution, so the sequester seems to be shaping up as the path of least resistance for both sides.
5. Impact trickles down. In addition to ending the payroll tax holiday, the sequester will begin to squeeze the federal workforce. The FBI has announced it will furlough all employees for 14 days over the year. For the Department of Defense, which shares 50 percent of the total cuts, many civilian employees will face furloughs as well.
6. Who/what is exempt? Active service military personnel, Social Security benefits and most of Medicare are exempt from the cuts. Certain social services, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are also safe.
7. Will this lead to reform? The sequester itself seems to be the most comprehensive deficit reduction plan on the horizon. Although many have spoken out against it, the cuts continue to be the most realistic path to fiscal solvency for the U.S. government. The fail-safe against failure may just do its job.
Tonight on Current TV, “The War Room” host Michael Shure will be joined by Huffington Post reporter Paul Blumenthal and Democratic strategist Donnie Fowler to give us the latest news on the sequester.