If you pay any attention at all to politics, you are likely to have heard some ominous-sounding discussion about the “sequester.” A good number if political and economic energy is being expended these days to either stop it, or to learn how to deal with it. So…what is it?
Basically, Republicans and Democrats (read: Congress and the President) can’t agree on how to reduce the deficit. Back during the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, they set up a series of automatic budget cuts so deep and so deadly neither side would want them to go into effect. The cuts incentivize a compromise, in other words, making the costs of inaction too too steep for either side.
Well…um…how to put it? That compromise didn’t happen. And now, sequestration. If you are curious, the Washington Post’s “Wonkblog” has a good roundup and FAQ. Wonder why this is important? How about this:
“The sequester cuts discretionary spending across-the-board by 9.4 percent for defense and 8.2 percent for everything else. But no programs are actually eliminated. The effect is to reduce the scale and scope of existing programs rather than to zero out any of them.”
This amounts to about $85 billion in cuts this year, with another $87-$92 billion every year after until 2021. The Wonkblog goes into detail with how the effects various programs and the economy, and gives us some information on how each party plans to address the sequester, nothing that basically no one actually wants these cuts.
It’s important to remember, though, that this isn’t just about government brinksmanship. In other words, this isn’t just political fun ‘n’ games: the Post helpfully provide responses from 21 individuals reliant on a federal program that will be cut, bringing home the cost of the sequester – and putting faces to an important debate.