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Week in Review: The Beginning of March Brings the Sequester

March 7, 2013

Bethany Foxx ‘16

The third month of 2013 brought  sequestration and marked another occasion, much like the fiscal cliff, in which the federal government has been unable to come to a decision about the federal budget or the proposed budget cuts to address the running deficit.

The sequester is a set of federal spending cuts that went into effect on March 1. This article by the Washington Post offers a further breakdown of what the sequester entails.

The sequester was initially passed as a component of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which set the compromise on the debt ceiling. Had Congress come to a deal about how much to cut from the budget in December of 2012, the debate on sequestration would not have escalated to its current state. The fiscal cliff was scheduled to go into effect in January 1, 2013, causing automatic tax cuts along with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the payroll tax cut. However, Congress was able to reach a deal at the last minute in order to avoid going over the cliff, while pushing the deadline for the sequester until March 1.

The total amount of cuts for the year 2013 equates to $85.4 billion of discretionary spending across the board. More cuts are projected in the coming years, totaling $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Despite the large amount of cuts, there has been emphasis on the fact that no programs will be completely eliminated; however, many will be significantly scaled down in size.

There are ideas to counteract the drastic measures that sequestration imposes, and according to the Washington Post, four proposals evaluate possible solutions. The first plan, from the Senate Democrats, replaces one year of the Sequester with defense cuts, domestic cuts, and tax hikes; the second details the Republicans’ plan to eliminate other government-run programs to replace the sequester cuts; a third plan, proposed by the House Democrats, looks to fend off the sequester for one year by raising taxes and cutting farm subsidies; and the fourth, President Obama’s plan, suggests the way to fend off the sequester is to present a smaller package of cuts and tax reforms.

The White House has designated a specific section of their website to provide information about the sequester and its potential impacts across the country. On the website, President Obama is quoted saying, “the whole design of these arbitrary cuts was to make them so unattractive and unappealing that Democrats and Republicans would actually get together and find a good compromise of sensible cuts as well as closing tax loopholes and so forth. And so this was all designed to say we can’t do these bad cuts; let’s do something smarter. That was the whole point of this so-called sequestration.”

The Washington Post has compiled information regarding what specific programs will see changes and how the cuts could potentially cause job losses across the United States. Additionally, another article by the New York Times offers a lengthy question and answer commentary that sheds light on the origin of the sequester, from the time of the debt ceiling debate to present day, in fairly simple terms.

Only time will demonstrate the true effects of the Sequester and whether Congress can find any semblance of middle ground to attain a compromise; they hope to find a solution that has a better overall outcome than the blunt cuts that will be implemented in the near future.

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