Without further congressional action, on March 1 the sequester will take effect and will impose drastic across-the-board federal spending cuts that are meant to be evenly divided over a nine-year period and bring in a projected $1.2 trillion.
These austerity-like cuts will decrease tax revenue and increase spending on benefits programs, like unemployment, further causing the economy to fall. A study by George Mason University predicts an estimated 2.14 million jobs lost if sequestration is allowed to happen.
These across-the-board cuts might, however, be the only thing that can bring our leaders to the table. The fact that the military will face a 7.9 percent cut—$42.7 billion—in defense worries Republicans and the sweeping hacks to government agencies through the 5.3 percent discretionary cut and the 2 percent cut to Medicare worries Democrats.
Congress remains gridlocked as its members play the blame game and debate what strategy will set the sequestration straight at the eleventh hour.
There need to be federal spending cuts, but this should be done pragmatically, incrementally and with a mix of tax increases. Strategies that favor policies like the shifting of military spending cuts to “mandatory discretionary” programs like food stamps and children’s health care will only hurt the American people.
Our Congress has, yet again, waited until the eleventh hour to fix a serious issue that deserves more time and negotiation than a few days. The people we elected need to get to the table to figure this thing out. The Budget Control Act was created to light a fire under the members of Congress. It was meant to be onerous to force members of Congress to the compromising table. And still, we wait.
The sequester is just around the corner. Americans will begin to feel the spending cuts that start to take effect March 1, but it’s lights out for any non-essential, non-emergency government positions beginning March 27, the day the Continuing Resolution to keep the government operating runs out. Then what will we do?
It seems the chances of a government shutdown actually happening are increasing. The last time this happened was in 1996, and forced Democrats and Republicans to figure out budget disagreements. While unfortunate, maybe this is what needs to happen. The last time we had a real time federal budget that was signed into law was in 1997 when Newt Gingrich was on his second wife and Bill Clinton was in office. That is disheartening to say the least.
Let’s hope congressional leaders figure out a tax revenue and spending cut mix that will be favorable to the American people and growth of the economy at the same time.