A Big Dumb-Dumb’s Guide To The Big Dumb Budget Sequestration
12:30 pm, February 27th | by Colette McIntyre
While sequestration may sound like something you did once while you were drunk in high school but regretted ever since because some people won’t let you forget it and, like, hell-ooo, you’re a different person now, the term refers to a series of automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that could impact multiple government agencies, lead to hundred of thousands of job cuts and cause lasting damage to the economy — so yeah, it’s kind of a bummer. Now before you start conceding to your cousin that he was right and you will be needing a spot in his doomsday bunker after all, let us answer some of your sequestions. (Hey-o!) As Mother always says, “You shouldn’t spend your savings on a lifetime’s supply of jerky and black-market shotguns before you have all the information.”
Let us take you back to the year 2011. Katy Perry’s “Firework” is playing on every radio station, everyone still hates Chris Brown, and our lord and savior Blue Ivy Carter has yet to be born; it’s a whole different world. A debate is raging in Congress: House Republicans are refusing to raise the debt ceiling without a reduction in spending, Democrats won’t cut spending unless Congress agrees to raise taxes, and the GOP simply won’t raise taxes because then Democrats will just continue to spend all willy nilly. A bipartisan group of Congress members called a Supercommittee is tasked with finding a compromise that would pare down the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over ten years. This is where the sequester was born.
The sequester was basically threat passed into law in order to motivate members of Congress (a ROUSING success, to be sure). It stipulated that if the Supercommittee failed to reach a compromise, a series of unacceptable, automatic spending cuts would take place. Unfortunately, the Supercomittee failed to reach a compromise. It’s kind of like how you sometimes threaten your boyfriend that you’ll break up with him if he doesn’t change his behavior. You don’t actually want to break up, but you need to give him incentive to change. In this case, your boyfriend, Congress, was like “Do it; see if I care,” and then you actually did, figuring Congress would fight for you, but Congress just walked out of your apartment and you haven’t heard from him in a week and now you feel all “Wait, takesies backsies” except this is the government and there are no takesies backsies.
So what’s going to happen? Well, the first wave of spending cuts will begin this Friday. The sequester will shave money from the budgets of the military, the FBI, the National Institute of Health, the CDC, FEMA, prisons, and a slew of other agencies and government-run programs. Government employees will lose their jobs, unemployment benefits will decrease, local school districts will lose funding, and the national economy will undoubtedly take a blow — many economists and government officials project that the sequester could reduce GDP by around a half-percent and unemployment could increase by a quarter to a full percentage point. The cuts will have a day-to-day effect on the government’s operability. Worst of all, there has been talk of meat shortages. (Yea, people of Williamsburg: rise up! They can take our national parks, zoos, relief programs, and food-safety inspections, but they will never take OUR BACON!)
What are you doing? Will you stop crying and listen, please?! It may not be that bad! While the sequester is technically kicking in this week, Congress still has a chance to temper the cuts so they aren’t so brutal and — maybe, hopefully — cut a deal. The sequester is effectively a law, and so it can all be avoided if Congress passes a new law. President Obama has proposed a plan that would replace the sequester with a spending cut/tax hike swirl, thereby satisfying both Democrats and Republicans to some degree. Senate Democrats have their own $110 billion deficit-reduction package that would decrease defense spending, place a minimum tax on the wealthy, and reduce federal farm subsidies. At this point it is up to Republicans to decide whether they are willing to sacrifice tax cuts in order to avoid the sequester.
So just keep your Doomsday prepper cousin on speed dial. And let me know if a spot opens up in the bunker.
[Photo via Shutterstock]