It's the middle of the last week of February and, due to a temporary delay over the debt ceiling, we have two days before the dreaded "sequester" could possibly go into effect automatically. If a deal isn't made by March 1st, then $1.2 trillion in budget cuts across the board goes into effect with massive cuts through a hard cap on government spending.that emerged as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act.
These cuts will affect a wide range of programs. From civilian employees at the Pentagon and military bases to teachers, there will reportedly be some jobs lost as a result. Employees in a number of other government agencies will reportedly be forced to take a day off without pay to save money. In addition, air traffic control towers may be shut down at some smaller airports. Some pundits worry that the cuts on non military programs may hit the social safety net. While some sources report that the sequester will be gradually implemented, the fact that we're facing something unfamiliar means we likely don't know what to expect if the sequester goes down.
Some supporters of the sequester claim this will be a minor budget cut and place the blame on President Obama, even accusing him of campaigning (despite the fact that he can't run again). Opponents claim that it will drastically effect the economy with massive job losses for those working for the government (civilians at the Defense Dept, for example) as well as possibly hitting Social Security and Medicare. Amongst the rank and file (i.e.: those of us that aren't elected officials) many people view this as a form of partisan bickering and a lack of compromise. While current polls seem to find the majority of those surveyed would blame the Republicans for the sequester, there are also polls showing it might hit Obama as well. Putting aside polls and the perceptions given to us by the mainstream corporate owned media, there is one thing about the sequester that a lot of people (including some of those people in Congress) seem to not understand.
This was supposed to be a doomsday scenario of sorts. The massive cuts on both sides was intended to be something allegedly so horrible that both sides would do their best to make sure it didn't happen. What Obama didn't count on though was the transformation of the Republicans by the Tea Party into embracing the right wing's worst elements, including a tendency to make the poor sacrifice over problems created by the top 1%. Expecting this doomsday scenario to be avoidable was one thing when one assumes both sides are trying to be reasonable, but these are different times. Right now, most of the Republicans are either firmly in teabagger clutches or so afraid of being primaried on the right that any sign of compromise or willingness to meet halfway is considered treason. In this climate, you have factions in the tea party movement that are taking credit for what's about to happen.
The irony is that this can all be easily avoided. Since it is a man made scenario, Congress can always repeal it and dodge the bullet that way. They could also put aside the rhetoric about the deficit and raise the debt ceiling (as was business as usual before the teabaggers decided to make the houses of Congress even more like elementary school than it already is by digging their heels in on this even further).
What is likely to happen if sequestration happens is that the U.S. enters a form of austerity where a lot of people who are near the bottom of the economic ladder take the brunt of the hits the cuts entail. Supporters of the sequester will say this is needed to get the deficit under control. Yet, ironically, the deficit has gone down under the Obama administration. Also, the job layoffs will hit in areas the right normally seems to have wet dreams about (hint: there are civilians that work on military bases). While the GOP has wanted to exempt the Defense Dept from the sequester, they have been more than willing to throw everyone else under the bus.
So if this is so horrible why is mostly one side willing to bring things over the cliff to get their way? Sure, Obama has decided to go forward but when you're facing an opposition that seems hellbent on making sure you get absolutely nothing done (or as Obama might call it, most of his first term in Congress). Given that many of them went on record as saying their main goal was to make Obama a one term president, I personally wonder if this is a temper tantrum of sorts for not getting the election results they wanted. I really hope that's not the case but sometimes you have to wonder about that.
We have a day and a half before the sequestration cuts kick in and take the country into unknown territory. In this time a deal could possibly be made at the last minute to make this much ado about nothing. However, it's just as likely (probably more likely) that this could go into effect and affect thousands (if not millions) of people in the process.
I don't know what will happen but I worry about the future if the worst case scenario goes into play.