Sequester cuts: White House breaks down effects


US President Barack Obama during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on Feb. 15, 2013.


Jewel Samad

Congress has less than five days to prevent the across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester from going into effect on March 1.

According to the Washington Post, instead of coming to a bipartisan compromise, the Democratic and Republican parties are expected to introduce competing proposals this week.

Don't expect either party to win-- neither the Republicans nor the Democrats believe they have the votes to pass their version through Congress. Instead, both parties are prepping for a lengthy round of political jousting, hedging bets that they'll eventually reach a compromise.

Last week, President Barack Obama spoke from the White House, urging congressional Republicans to work on a compromise to avoid the sequester.

If Congress allowed "this meat cleaver approach" to cut our deficit, Obama said, it would impact our national security, economy and health care.

"Changes like this effect our ability to respond to threats in different parts of the world," he said. "This is not an abstraction. People will lose their jobs."

To scare us even sillier, the White House released a state-by-state breakdown of how exactly the sequester— which involves $85 billion in spending cuts across education, airports, food, defense, and more-- will affect us all.

And there's reason to be scared. According to Time Magazine, the Congressional Budget Office, which is nonpartisan, estimated that the measures would cost the US about 750,000 jobs by the end of 2013.

According to the Agence France Presse, some 800,000 civilian employees of the Defense Department will go on a mandatory furlough one day per week and see their salaries cut by 20 percent.

The navy will decrease the amount of time its vessels remain at sea by 30-35 percent and the deployment of a second aircraft carrier in the Gulf has already been canceled.

The maintenance budget for bases and equipment will also be reduced, forcing the dismissal of some subcontractors.

The military, however, will not see its salaries cut.

Airports would also face severe cuts, increasing the average wait time for passengers arriving in the United States and going through immigration to increase by 30-50 percent. The TSA would enact a hiring freeze, eliminate overtime, and furlough its employees for seven days.

AFP also reported that the federal government would reduce aid to schools by the equivalent of salaries of 10,000 teachers and 7,200 specialists for children with disabilities.

According to the Washington Post, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. would cumulatively lose $29 million in elementary and high school funding, with 390 teacher jobs at stake, and 27,000 students affected.

In Ohio, hundreds of teachers face losing their jobs. Thousands of children in Georgia may not have access to necessary vaccines.

Moreover, the FDA would also cut back, resulting in a slower approval process for new medications. The risk of food-borne illnesses would also increase as the FDA would cut inspections.

Lastly, many of the country's 398 national parks would face partial or complete closure, devastating the economies of the communities that rely on them.

The impacts of the sequester would also "get worse over time" said one White House budget official to the Washington Post.

According to Time Magazine, because the immediate impact of the sequester will most likely be mild, no one in Washington knows how to manage it before Congress figures out a way to replace it.

Of course, the sequester isn't the country's only financial disaster in the works. Congress is expected to pass a new budget before the latest short-term funding plan it approved expires on March 27.

Though failure to meet that deadline would result in a government shutdown, the good news is that this gives Congress the option to rewrite the laws to change the budget cuts invoked during the sequester. 

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