Friday’s spending cut apocalypse

We are facing another financial deadline in Washington in three days.  Not a fiscal cliff, nor a debt ceiling crisis.  On Friday, March 1, if nothing happens, federal spending will automatically be cut by $85.4 billion.  This so-called “sequester” was part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling.   Republicans put in cuts for domestic programs, while Democrats put in cuts for the military.  Both sides assumed that these would never go through, since they go against the respective priorities of each party, but it looks like they will.  The Obama administration is decrying the cuts in apocalyptic terms, saying air traffic control will be shut down, our military will be crippled, the elderly will go hungry, and children will lose their schools.  After the jump, see what will really be affected.

via The Sequester: Absolutely everything you could possibly need to know, in one FAQ:

$42.7 billion in defense cuts (a 7.9 percent cut).

$28.7 billion in domestic discretionary cuts (a 5.3 percent cut).

$9.9 billion in Medicare cuts (a 2 percent cut).

$4 billion in other mandatory cuts (a 5.8 percent cut to nondefense programs, and a 7.8 percent cut to mandatory defense programs).

That makes for a total of $85.4 billion in cuts. . . .

More will be cut in 2014 and later; from 2014 to 2021, the sequester will cut $87 to $92 billion from the discretionary budget every year, and $109 billion total. . . .

[To break it down some more]

  • Aircraft purchases by the Air Force and Navy are cut by $3.5 billion.
  • Military operations across the services are cut by about $13.5 billion.
  • Military research is cut by $6.3 billion.
  • The National Institutes of Health get cut by $1.6 billion.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are cut by about $323 million.
  • Border security is cut by about $581 million.
  • Immigration enforcement is cut by about $323 million.
  • Airport security is cut by about $323 million.
  • Head Start gets cut by $406 million, kicking 70,000 kids out of the program.
  • FEMA’s disaster relief budget is cut by $375 million.
  • Public housing support is cut by about $1.94 billion.
  • The FDA is cut by $206 million.
  • NASA gets cut by $970 million.
  • Special education is cut by $840 million.
  • The Energy Department’s program for securing our nukes is cut by $650 million.
  • The National Science Foundation gets cut by about $388 million.
  • The FBI gets cut by $480 million.
  • The federal prison system gets cut by $355 million.
  • State Department diplomatic functions are cut by $650 million.
  • Global health programs are cut by $433 million; the Millenium Challenge Corp. sees a $46 million cut, and USAID a cut of about $291 million.
  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is cut by $55 million.
  • The SEC is cut by $75.6 million.
  • The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is cut by $2.6 million.
  • The Library of Congress is cut by $31 million.
  • The Patent and Trademark office is cut by $156 million.

George Will on what he considers the phony hysteria over how the sequester will allegedly cripple our government:

Batten down the hatches — the sequester will cut $85 billion from this year’s $3.6 trillion budget! Or: Head for the storm cellar — spending will be cut 2.3 percent! Or: Washington chain-saw massacre — we must scrape by on 97.7 percent of current spending! Or: Chaos is coming because the sequester will cut a sum $25 billion larger than was just shoveled out the door (supposedly, but not actually) for victims of Hurricane Sandy! Or: Heaven forfend, the sequester will cut 47 percent as much as was spent on the AIG bailout! Or: Famine, pestilence and locusts will come when the sequester causes federal spending over 10 years to plummet from $46 trillion all the way down to $44.8 trillion! Or: Grass will grow in the streets of America’s cities if the domestic agencies whose budgets have increased 17 percent under President Obama must endure a 5 percent cut!


The sequester has forced liberals to clarify their conviction that whatever the government’s size is at any moment, it is the bare minimum necessary to forestall intolerable suffering. At his unintentionally hilarious hysteria session Tuesday, Obama said: The sequester’s “meat-cleaver approach” of “severe,” “arbitrary” and “brutal” cuts will “eviscerate” education, energy and medical research spending. “And already, the threat of these cuts has forced the Navy to delay an aircraft carrier that was supposed to deploy to the Persian Gulf.”

“Forced”? The Navy did indeed cite the sequester when delaying deployment of the USS Truman. In the high-stakes pressure campaign against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, U.S. policy has been to have two carriers in nearby waters. Yet the Navy is saying it cannot find cuts to programs or deployments less essential than the Truman deployment. The Navy’s participation in the political campaign to pressure Congress into unraveling the sequester is crude, obvious and shameful, and it should earn the Navy’s budget especially skeptical scrutiny by Congress.

The Defense Department’s civilian employment has grown 17 percent since 2002. In 2012, defense spending on civilian personnel was 21 percent higher than in 2002. And the Truman must stay in Norfolk? This is, strictly speaking, unbelievable.


What do you think about the sequester?  Isn’t it true that this gimmick, in which both parties sacrifice, is the only feasible way, given the current Congress, to reduce federal spending?  And doesn’t that have to happen?


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  • “The Obama administration is decrying the cuts in apocalyptic terms, saying air traffic control will be shut down, our military will be crippled, the elderly will go hungry, and children will lose their schools.”

    Amazing. Their reaction. Since it was their idea to begin with. They have since lied about that fact.

  • BW

    I think the sequester is necessary. I wish there would have been a way to spread the cuts more evenly across the board, but 2.3% is a drop in the bucket. I find myself agreeing with Will though, it seems as though the military is trying to make a stir by threatening a high profile deployment of an aircraft carrier. Are all our foreign bases and deployments needed?

    What’s sad is that both parties are crying over this debt reduction and want to kick the can down the road a little more. Can the government really not find 2.3% in waste somewhere, or spending that really isn’t needed?

  • BW

    Also, these aren’t actually cuts, but decreases in the rate of increases in spending.

  • SKPeterson

    I would tell the Navy that their suspension of the aircraft carrier completion actually points out the fact that the aircraft carrier wasn’t really necessary in the first place. The usual method of dealing with a financial constraint is to cut back on unneeded luxuries (i.e., aircraft carriers) and want-to-have’s. If the Truman is a need-to-have, the Navy could surely find other less pressing ares to cut. If I were in Congress, I’d probably slap an additional 10% obsequious kowtowing penalty on them for to the crass display of the bureaucratic mindset.

  • Carl Vehse

    Will the salaries of the President, Cabinet, Congress, Joint Chiefs, and the Supreme Court be cut (responsibly more than) in proportion to the cuts for other government employees?

  • SKPeterson

    Carl – the Supremes exempted themselves some time ago from any salary cuts, but the others are ludicrously underpaid for the services they render to the people. Right? Right? …

  • Joe

    As BW points out these are not cuts – they are reductions in the increase of spending. Also, only 44 billion of “cuts” go into effect now. The remainder are phased in over the next 10 years.

    What this “debate” really demonstrates is that people cannot actually comprehend numbers beyond a certain point. Were talking about 44 billion out of a budget of 3.6 trillion dollars — that is basically a rounding error but people are taken in by this sky is falling rhetoric because to any normal person 85 billion sounds like a really big number.

  • As I recall, it was the President himself who first put forth the concept of “sequestering.”

  • MarkB

    As BW @3 says, “Also, these aren’t actually cuts, but decreases in the rate of increases in spending.”

    I believe I read recently that automatic increases in spending for this fiscal year amount to a 5% increase. With the 2.3% cut it won’t even be close, we still increased the budget! So with all the hysteria about a decrease in the rate of increase how can we ever actually cut government? And if we cannot contain and reduce the size of federal government we have lost the battle.

  • MarkB@9,
    War is Peace
    Freedom is Slavery
    Ignorance is strength
    Spending increases are Spending Cuts

  • SAL

    The Army is looking at an actual decrease in spending this year and next year due to Sequestration. The other services aren’t hit quite as hard.

    In the Army our main problem is that we made no preparation for Sequestration (we could have started in October). Partly this was because the President didn’t want cut backs before the election and promised the Sequester would never occur. So now we’ve been operating on a budget that has to shrink 13% immediately for the Army. Besides that we have to deal with the dozens of colors of money. We aren’t legally allowed to reduce spending on Research and shift it to Military Operations (without first getting Congress to approve the shift of funds). Money for Military Construction is not allowed to be shifted to pay Salaries. On top of that we sign millions of contracts with private industry. When we go to contractors and say we need to cancel the contracts often we have to pay millions of dollars in severance fees. So an instantaneous cut is hard to do for an institution as large and as highly regulated and with as many long-term contracts as the Army. Right now ~80% of our spending is locked in place (due to legal contracts or Congressional regulations) and can’t be legally reduced for months. That means the other 20% has to bare the entire burden of cuts.

    So without a new budget we’re left cutting some funds by 20-40% in the next 6 months. It’s not a function of the total amount of money the Army has but more a function of not preparing for the cut in funds and having a budget that distributes the money to the wrong areas.

    What I’d like to see is the Sequestration cuts delayed until next year and a budget passed. Then we’d have time to go through the legal process to lay people off (it take up to a year in the defense department), to shut down some agencies and commands, and to reduce funding for annual contracts.

    I understand this is hard for folks in the private sector to understand as they typically don’t work in an industry where Congress micromanages where you can spend funds, and where doing things on the cheap sometimes means soldiers die.

  • Dennis

    >>The usual method of dealing with a financial constraint is to cut back on unneeded luxuries (i.e., aircraft carriers) and want-to-have’s.<<

    You and I would do so. Government entities tend to choose the most critical and observable things to cut so as to get the money restored as quickly as possible.

  • sg

    OH …. NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Not the 2% budget cuts!!!!!!!

    How can we possibly get by on 2% less?!!!!!!

    The sky is falling!!!!!!!!

    The world as we know it is coming to an end!!!!!!!!

    Hey, wait, that might be a good thing.

  • Jon


  • helen

    I do wish “apocalypse” would not be used so frequently,
    usually by people who don’t believe in the Apocalypse!

  • Cincinnatus


    I can assure you that the Department of Defense does nothing on the cheap.

  • DonS

    As has been said above, these “cuts” are decreases in otherwise planned spending increases, not actual cuts from dollars spent last year. If I spent $50,000 in 2012, and needed to cut 2% from my budget this year, I would spend $49,000 in 2013. However, if I were the government, I would first set a new budget for this year, planning on an 8 % increase to $54,000, then cut 2% from that. So, though my real spending would increase from 2012 to 2013, from $50,000 to $52,920, I would claim that I “cut” spending 2 % and loudly proclaim that the sky was falling and life as we know it is coming to an end.

    Unfortunately, SAL @ 11 is right about the Defense Department. That agency is more beset than most by pork barrel spending on expensive weapons systems and nonsense like the biofuels program, that requires the Navy to spend $27 per gallon on fuel! $27 per gallon! No wonder they can’t afford to deploy a warship. But the problem in this instance isn’t the sequester, it’s the idiotic appropriations process which utterly misuses existing taxpayer dollars. Congress can easily pass legislation re-appropriating available dollars to ensure that the cuts don’t fall the way they are currently scheduled to fall. Call your Congressman.

    The fact of the matter is that, even with this silly, insignificant sequester, we are still borrowing some $800 billion on our kids’ credit card this year. That is shameful. I am ashamed of our country and its asinine whining over these tiny cuts in increased spending.

  • Joe

    I would also like to point out that the this sky is falling mentality is coming from both sides of the isle. There a plenty of GOPers who are going all Henny Penny on this issue. Even the speaker – who is apparently now ready to let the sequester happened – couldn’t resist labeling them “deep spending cuts” and claims the sequester “threatens U.S. national security, thousands of jobs and more” in his recent WSJ op ed.

    As the leader of the so called small gov’t party he should be championing these “cuts” not simply trying to shift the blame to Obama.

    And, btw – if this is the American public’s idea of austerity we are in deep trouble.

  • fjsteve

    Sequester away! Let the sky fall. All the weasels running around like freshly whacked chickens will be really entertaining.

  • Not my normal name

    I am a regular reader and an occasional commenter here at Cranach, but am not using my usual name.
    I am a federal employee in an agency that has done little in the first half of the fiscal year to prepare for sequestration, so now we are looking at implementing 15% cuts for the remainder of the year, on top of cuts to the budget that my program has already taken (I work in a program that more than pays for itself in certain types of natural disasters, but is on the hit list of some environmental groups).
    I am not overpaid for my level of education and experience, but some consider all federal employees to be overpaid. I am in the top third of my pay grade, so I only get cost of living increases every three years, which means that my take-home salary has gone down considerably in the past couple years.
    I am in favor of reasonable and real cuts in federal spending, and the cuts both my agency and program are taking are very real, not just cuts in growth.
    I am writing this just to remind you that sequestration, though perhaps necessary, effects real people—your neighbors—in real ways. I am looking at up to 32 days of furlough (worst case scenario) spread out over the next six months, which is not something I am in a position to handle financially due to circumstances over the past few years that were mostly beyond my control.
    So, as you blast away at federal spending, remember to pray and act for those hurt by the cuts.

  • DonS

    Not @ 20: I understand your pain — unfortunately, the federal government is mismanaged to the extent that it cannot seem to cut 2% without making it hurt. Of course, there are those who think this is intentional, for two reasons. One, it’s the “Washington Monument” strategy — cut the most popular, most visible line items and blame it on your opposition, in the hopes of either reversing any cuts or damaging the opposition politically. Two, the Democrats absolutely refuse to consider cutting entitlements, which are consuming 2/3 of the federal budget.

    This Ramirez cartoon, showing comparative budget “pie” charts from 2007 and 2013, is instructive:

    The federal budget has increased 40% since 2007! $1 trillion per year additional spending! The little crumb there on the right hand bloated pie represents the sequester cuts. During this same time of deep recession many, if not most, private employers and families cut their budgets in real terms. I guarantee you that very few established companies or families have seen a 40% increase in their budgets since 2007.

    If $44 billion in cuts in the increased rate of spending (the current fiscal year cuts) is too high a price to pay, then what of the $1 billion in debt we are laying on our future generations? Each and every year? In what moral universe can this travesty be justified, because we insist on living far beyond our means?

  • Grace

    DonS @ 21

    “If $44 billion in cuts in the increased rate of spending (the current fiscal year cuts) is too high a price to pay, then what of the $1 billion in debt we are laying on our future generations? Each and every year? In what moral universe can this travesty be justified, because we insist on living far beyond our means?”

    It cannot!

    This is the exact replica of the past 30 years, (scaled down) within the private sector, the family. How many families have lived, WELL BEYOND THEIR MEANS – lost their homes, their retirement, savings, and most of all, liquidable assets, all because they INSISTED upon’ living far beyond their means.

    The government does this, and the private citizen does it as well, thinking there is NO BOTTOM, but there is, and we are seeing it as I type.

    Ask any citizen who has lost all the assets they had accumulated, how this happened – they most likely will blame it on their employer, the state – but it’s not “THEM” it’s everyone’s responsibility to watch their check book, eliminate or curb credit card spending, and IMPULSE shopping, or buying what they cannot afford ………….betting on the future.

    At this point, many cannot come close to helping their children go to college. Worst of all, their children shouldn’t be running up college loans they can’t pay. There are few jobs to be had, which require much of the grad degrees these young people haul around as their claim to a good job. They work in the Dept. stores, such as Nordstrom’s or Macy’s in the shoe department, or any other area in these stores, just to have some sort of income.

  • Joe

    Not @ 20 – you state that you are not over paid (and I don’t mean to pick a fight) but out here in the private sector pay is not a simply function of education + experience. There is are at least two very large components missing from the equation. 1. what can the employer afford to pay me, and 2. what is the going market rate for my services. I am also not over paid in my job based n my education and experience that however did not stop my employer from instituting across the board 10% salary reductions a two years ago.

    The reality is that when the economy tanked manufacturing employees took the first hit, then the service sector and now public employees are taking the hit. So, I will pray for you and I don’t wish you any ill will but you have to understand that you are not facing something that the vast majority of us have not already dealt with.

    Also, I am sorry that your agency did nothing to prepare for the sequester but that is just poor management. The sequester has been on the books since August 2, 2011 when it was first included in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

  • sg


    I agree that it must be hard to face cuts. Those in the private sector have been through this a lot. I hope you have sympathy for them as they have gone through this many times over. Many did not just face cuts, but they themselves were cut and now don’t have any job at all.

  • sg

    Government employees with actual skills aren’t overpaid. Some could get more in salary in the private sector, although maybe not more in benefits, pension and security. It is the lowest level of government employees that have salaries and benefits and job security that are higher than they could get in the private sector.

  • DonS

    sg @ 25: good point. I worked for the federal government for eight years back in the 1980’s, and the GS pay scale is quite compressed. Entry level and low-skilled workers tend to be paid significantly more than private sector counterparts, and highly skilled experienced employees, particularly engineers, upper management, and professionals tend to be paid significantly less than private sector counterparts. Benefits are excellent, of course, and the federal service retirement plan (FERS), instituted in 1986 or so, though not as generous as the old civil service retirement plan (CSRS), is still a benefit far beyond anything available to most employees in the private sector. You used to be able to retire with full benefits at 55, as long as you had 30 years of service. I think that is in the process of transitioning to age 57 — still incredible compared to what we can do in the private sector with our 401(k) plans and no possibility of social security benefits until at least age 62.

  • TomH

    …and 791,000 Department of Defense civilian employees like me and over a dozen others in our congregation take an immediate 20% pay cut through furlough action resulting from the DoD budget cuts. This, in turn is affecting our ability to proceed with a much-needed physical expansion to accommodate our growing day-school ministry.
    Our elected officials in Washington are not doing there jobs. Why do we keep electing the same self-serving people to office?

  • Grace

    TomH @ 27

    “Our elected officials in Washington are not doing there jobs. Why do we keep electing the same self-serving people to office?”

    The “WE” isn’t the majority. The “others” who don’t contribute, but want more, pay very little tax, if any- OR collect unemployement, OR don’t work at all – they are the ones keeping those in office who will ‘give them what they want, without working for it.

  • Grace

    Post 28 should have read:

    The “WE” are not the majority.

  • P.C.

    If the Congress; that is, the Democrat controlled Senate, would pass a budget we would not be in this sequestration mess. But its been three plus years since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his ilk considered doing their constitutional duty. By the way, President Obama is also late in submitting his proposed budget but that is par for the course. Therefore, every couple of months we have fiscal cliffs, sequestations, and debt ceiling limits to contend with. Certainly, not a way to conduct business much less a republic.