Remember the “sequester,” the automatic budget cuts that were supposed to go into effect on January 2 but were kicked down the road to March 1? The result of last year’s agreement on the national debt and the recent “fiscal cliff” deliberations? Since the cuts would hit Republican causes (the Pentagon) and Democratic causes (social programs) alike, it was assumed that Congress would get rid of them. Well, it looks like they may go into effect after all.
From Lori Montgomery, in the Washington Post:
Less than a month after averting one fiscal crisis, Washington began bracing Tuesday for another, as lawmakers in both parties predicted that deep, across-the-board spending cuts would probably hit the Pentagon and other federal agencies on March 1.
An array of proposals are in the works to delay or replace the cuts. But party leaders say they see no clear path to compromise, particularly given a growing sentiment among Republicans to pocket the cuts and move on to larger battles over health and retirement spending.
Adding to the sense of inevitability is the belief that the cuts, known as the sequester, would improve the government’s bottom line without devastating the broader economy. Though the cuts would hamper economic growth, especially in the Washington region, the forecast is far less dire than with other recent fiscal deadlines, and financial markets are not pressing Washington to act.
Cuts to the military and the defense industry remain politically problematic. But Tuesday, even some of the Pentagon’s most fervent champions seemed resigned to the likelihood that the cuts would be permitted to kick in, at least temporarily. . . .
The sequester is a product of the 2011 fight over the national debt, when the new GOP House majority insisted on spending cuts equal in size to the increase in the federal debt limit. The result: spending caps that would force President Obama to slice $1 trillion from agency budgets over the next decade, along with $1.2 trillion in additional cuts that would hit automatically on Jan. 2, 2013, unless Congress agreed on a plan to replace them.
The sequester was designed to be abhorrent to both parties. With the exception of a few programs spared by Congress — including Medicaid, Medicare benefits and food stamps — every government account would be sliced by roughly the same amount. Many Republicans were queasy about a projected 9.4 percent reduction in military programs. And many Democrats were alarmed by the prospect of a 8.2 percent cut to Head Start, air-traffic-control operations and community development block grants.
Even while we might regret the defense department or other favorite programs that would be cut, wouldn’t this, in all honesty, be a good thing? Our best prospect for actually cutting government spending?