Sequestration: What Does it Mean? How Bad Will it Suck?

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Sequestration is coming Friday, March 1. Maybe you heard.

But what does it mean in this case, and will it impact you?


Sequestration, or the "sequester cuts," refers to the automatic federal budget cuts that are set to take place on Friday, unless a deal is reach to stop them.

That is looking increasingly unlikely with each passing day.

Both President Barack Obama and Republicans say they want to avoid sequestration, but neither has been willing to make sacrifices to make it possible.

Larger-picture entitlement reform and tax increases are probably both necessary to form any real solution, but instead of compromise, we get finger pointing.

Over the weekend, the White House released detailed reports of how each state will be impacted if the sequestration budget cuts were to take effect.

Education, public health, law enforcement, defense, food safety, aviation safety and security, and national parks programs will all take a hit if cuts take hold.

The cuts total $85.4 billion, including $42.7 billion being cut from the defense budget over 10 years and $28.7 billion in domestic discretionary spending.

Another $9.9 billion will be cut from Medicare, and $4 billion in other mandatory cuts. That's a lot of money. So how are we even in this predicament?

It's all part of efforts to curb the U.S. national debt, which exploded upward when the 2007 recession hit and now stands at more than $16 trillion.

The sequester has been coming for more than a year, with Congress pushing it back to March 1 as part of the fiscal cliff deal at the end of the last session.

It started with the 2011 standoff over the U.S. debt ceiling, when Republicans in Congress demanded spending cuts in exchange for raising the limit.

In the end, both sides agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts. About $1 trillion was laid out in the debt-ceiling bill and the rest imposed through sequestration.

This was seen a kind of fiscal doomsday device that Congress would have to disarm by forming a consensus on taxes / spending reductions on its own.

So much for that.

How bad will it be if the cuts take effect? The full impact likely won't be felt for months, though it is already starting to manifest itself in many ways.

In schools across the U.S. that depend on federal funding, for example, the belt-tightening has already begun. But is this inevitable, sequester or not?

Costs are out of control and tax revenues (and the population growth needed to bolster the economy along with high paying jobs) are not what they used to be.

Republicans, who typically stand on the side of more cuts, have criticized Obama's fight against the sequester, saying he is dramatizing its impact.

They've also accused him of "campaigning" by appearing at events around the country bashing them rather than trying to solve the problem himself.

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