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Inquiring Minds should want to know ...

What is this "Automatic Sequester" thing, and what's does this "Cliff" really look like?

The Sequester Explained (pdf)

The Budget Control Act (BCA) requires a cut of over $1 trillion in spending through a sequester. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is given authority to carry out the sequester. We do not yet know OMB’s interpretation of the Act, but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assumes that the sequester is intended to make cuts to discretionary appropriations and mandatory spending that add up to $1.2 trillion over nine years, beginning in 2013.  
* For fiscal years 2014-2021, cuts would be achieved by lowering the original BCA caps on defense (which does not include Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)) and non-defense discretionary budget authority, and by cancelling budgetary resources for some mandatory spending programs.
    -- 2013 is dealt with differently. There are no new discretionary caps. Rather, the cuts will be made regardless of Congress’ appropriation levels. (Note: Our interpretation is that this cut will include OCO.) Unless resolved by September, agencies will have to begin their fiscal years with a high level of uncertainty about their funding levels.
* Real level of program cuts is $984 billion. This is because $216 billion of the $1.2 trillion will come from assumed interest savings.

* Most mandatory spending is exempt from the sequester, including: Social Security, retirement programs, veteran’s benefits, refundable tax credits, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), unemployment insurance, food stamps (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and a host of other programs (mostly those benefitting individuals with low incomes).

* Medicare is subject to the sequester in the form of provider payment cuts, but those cuts cannot exceed 2 percent.

White House Details Potential Effects If Automatic Budget Cuts Go Through

by Jonthan Weisman, -- Sept 14, 2012

Under the terms of those cuts, most military programs face a 9.4 percent reduction, while most domestic programs would be sliced by 8.2 percent. Medicare would be trimmed by 2 percent, while other social programs -- excluding Social Security -- would be sliced by as much as 10 percent.

White House officials said cuts to Medicare would fall on health care providers, not beneficiaries. But the impact on health care professionals could affect the elderly if deep cuts prompt doctors and hospitals to shun Medicare patients. Total payments to hospitals through Medicare would be cut by more than $5.8 billion next year, while prescription drug benefits would be trimmed by $591 million.

The White House report details how $108 billion in cuts would be meted out next year, the start of what would be a decade’s worth of cuts on that scale.

Big cuts would hit the military. Defense Department operations and maintenance would lose $3.9 billion next year alone. Air Force and Navy aircraft procurement would be sliced by more than $4.2 billion. And money to strengthen Afghanistan’s security force the year before the United States plans to withdraw its own forces would fall by $1.3 billion.

Pain would be spread widely. The National Institutes of Health would lose $2.5 billion. Rental assistance for the poor would fall by $2.3 billion; nutrition programs for women, infants and children would lose $543 million.

Domestic priorities more associated with Republicans would also take a hit. The Customs and Border Patrol budget would fall by $823 million, and the budget for the border fence would drop $33 million.

That's one way to get the Military's attention, hey?  Take away the magic checkbook ...

But why are Politicians using this "Automatic Sequester" to play their typical game of "DC Chicken" ... again?

Why is "paying our bills" just another cynical opportunity for them to get their "rhetorical ponies"?

Like the perennial favorite of the GOP: "Entitlement Reform." Like the poster child of the Dems: the Sunsetting of the Bush Tax give-aways, even though that one -- was actually written into the original Public Law.

The sequester, explained

by Suzy Khimm, -- Sept 14, 2012


Why does everyone hate the sequester so much?

Legislators don't have any discretion with the across-the-board cuts: They are intended to hit all affected programs equally, though the cuts to individual areas will range from 7.6 percent to 9.6 percent (and 2 percent to Medicare providers). The indiscriminate pain is meant to pressure legislators into making a budget deal to avoid the cuts.

How would these cuts affect the country?

Since the details just came out [Sept 2012], it’s not entirely clear yet. But many top defense officials have warned that the cuts will lead the military to be "hollowed out." Democratic legislators have similarly warned about the impact on vital social programs. And defense, health care and other industries that are significantly dependent on federal spending say that major job losses will happen if the cuts end up taking effect.

Can the sequester be avoided?

Yes, but only if Congress passes another budget deal that would achieve at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. Both Democrats and Republicans have offered proposals to do so, but there still isn’t much progress on a deal. The political obstacles are the same as during the supercommittee negotiations: Republicans don’t want to raise taxes to generate revenue, while Democrats are reluctant to make dramatic changes to entitlement programs to achieve savings.

Well, there is another way ...

How about we quit writing "blank checks" to these guys:

U.S. Department of Defense -- Contracts

Day-after-Day; Year-after-Fiscal Year; Decade-after-American Decade.

What in the world, are these guys spending all those hundreds of Billions on anyways?

And exactly WHO is the enemy again?

Inquiring Minds should want to know.  Are we getting the bang for our Military buck?  Our Billions upon Billions of Military bucks.

Or is it really just a bottomless "Entitlement Program"?

Americans believe in World Peace, right?

SO WHEN are we going to re-focus OUR Taxes, on "Building Bridges instead of Bombs"?

Probably not soon enough ... unless inquiring minds demand to know ... Just WHY does our Military-Industrial-Complex feel so "damn entitled" to unscrutinized funding, without end?

Without public say?  

When it comes to Military Might, it's almost like America has an addiction problem.  And the habit just MUST be maintained ... No matter its collateral costs ...

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Comment Preferences

  •  "Sequestration" is another word for rationing and (4+ / 0-)

    hoarding and, from where I sit, the Congress has been doing enough of that with our currency already. Making currency scarce in order to manipulate the economy, reward friends and punish enemies is a low-down strategy.
    We hire Congress to manage our resources, assets and commodities. If they haven't managed well, they should be fired, as a goodly number have been. That they are trying to ingratiate themselves with their cronies as they head out the door is not a surprise. Jesus warned us about that in the parable of the unjust steward almost two thousand years ago.
    Still, the only practical recourse is a firing. Throwing good money after bad is not all that terrible, since we can now always make more--a reality our agents of government are loath to admit.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 10:56:32 AM PST

  •  I don't "hate" it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, maybeeso in michigan

    but I don't pretend to know what it will mean.

  •  Well done jamess. I've come to agree with Howard (5+ / 0-)

    Dean who last week noted that the sequestration cuts represent the best deal progressives are going to get because it is the only way we will share the burden of any cuts in government spending with military spending.  

    If we do not keep the sequestration cuts, nearly all the cuts to government spending will come from social programs including things progressive should be 100% against like the chained CPI, raising Medicare age eligibility, etc.

    The only problem with sequestration cuts is that by coming at the same time as the tax increases the CBO predicted we might get a two quarter economic stall or even recession.

    But, after that the CBO predicted the sequestration cuts combined with the extension of middle class tax cuts  might produce as much as 5% economic growth by 2016.

    And, if we were more clever we could mitigate the sort-term austerity bomb we are on default course to getting anyway with transitional stimulus such as extensions of unemployment benefits, greater funding for the infrastructure bank.

    My understanding is that the current "deal" is that Democrats exchange a one year delay, or eliminating of sequestration cuts" in return for Boehner allowing the middle class tax cut.

    We ought to vigorous favor a delay not elimination of the sequestration cuts, or even letting them kick in, as it will be the only way we get military spending to take part of the burden of reductions of government spending.

    We are like drug addicts who will need to suffer some short term withdrawal symptoms if we are to return to health.

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 10:57:37 AM PST

    •  Indeed (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Social Programs, MAY just end up getting hurt much worse,

      depending on how the "rushed" Entitlement-Reforms turn out,

      just to get the Republicans to honor their commitments.

      And the Military will just go on being pampered

      like a crying baby.

      thanks HoundDog

      Isn't it time to fix the Filibuster?
      -- Here's how.

      by jamess on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:23:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Where we spend our Dollars (7+ / 0-)

    says a LOT about our National Priorities ...


    The 1.5 Trillion Dollar Question

    Posted on April 1, 2011 by Maisha Lopa   

    Joint Committee Meeting of Religious and Disarmament NGO’s on Military Spending


    Isn't it time to fix the Filibuster?
    -- Here's how.

    by jamess on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:03:11 AM PST

  •  The squester "compromise" isn't a bad thing. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But delaying until the economy is more robust, say unemployment at 6.5'ish%, as is the historical norm, would mean the cuts could be better absorbed.

  •  The big problem with the sequester (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, Pluto, cassandracarolina

    is the effect on the economy. It would slow growth and likely lead to another recession.

    It's an issue of too many cuts, too soon.

    Here's my take on it - the revolution will not be blogged, it has to be slogged. - Deoliver47

    by OIL GUY on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:09:56 AM PST

    •  which could be interpreted (0+ / 0-)

      a price worth paying for

      "winning the war on terror" -- finally.

      Time to re-group, for our other National Challenges,

      still on hold.

      Isn't it time to fix the Filibuster?
      -- Here's how.

      by jamess on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:19:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It means massive unemployment (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cassandracarolina, blueoasis

      ...and accomplishes absolutely nothing whatsoever.

      A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

      by Pluto on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:35:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  it accomplishes (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cassandracarolina, blueoasis

        a major cut in Military Spending,

        which given the "status quo" nature of Congress,

        we'd never see otherwise.

        that's looking on the plus-side.

        the negative-side is there too,

        the question I'm posing is it work that trade-off cost.

        To ratchet-down all the golden-goose military spending.

        Isn't it time to fix the Filibuster?
        -- Here's how.

        by jamess on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:43:02 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  jamess, one in four of us works for the defense (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jamess, cassandracarolina

          ...sector, even if we only drive a taco truck to Honeywell or fill the vending machines at some midrise that houses front businesses for spooks. The Pentagon is the largest employer on this planet. And we are talking about millions and millions of regular non-military Americans who have no idea that their paychecks and a big part of their cash receipts actually come from defense spending.

          The time to unfund that sector was when the nation was healthy enough to survive. During the Clinton years -- or even the Bush years.

          In the third debate, President Obama said the military sequestered cuts were not going to happen. Believe him. They are not.

          A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. -- Groucho Marx

          by Pluto on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:56:14 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  well (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            that's just sucks.

            America is suppose be about Opportunity.

            Not about forcing our will on the world.

            Or so I used to think.

            (Can't the Bomb makers be converted to Bridge makers?)

            Thanks for the explanation Pluto,

            Think I'll go build my bunker now ...

            Isn't it time to fix the Filibuster?
            -- Here's how.

            by jamess on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 12:00:18 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Yes - a thousand times (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jamess, Pluto

            Much as I'd like to see massive cuts in military spending, they need to be balanced with growth in other sectors, like green jobs, infrastructure construction, etc. Simply pulling the plug would leave many people and their families out in the cold, jobless, and homeless.

            It's like transitioning from a wartime to a peacetime economy. Can't do it over a weekend.

            Those who do not understand history are condemned to repeat it... in summer school.

            by cassandracarolina on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 01:40:30 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  If anything, the Republicans (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, cassandracarolina, blueoasis

    should love the cliff. It pares government down by 10%. isn't that what they want? No? They're hypocrites, what?

    The cliff removes the spectre of the debt ceiling, no?

    The whole thing is a ruse, of Congress' making and the President helped.

    The money pit is the rest of the planet consisting of military boondoggles and private interventionary contracting and tax avoidance. We could be living nice lives if we'd quit being bellicose and pushy and start paying our taxes.

  •  The unmentioned hidden elephant in the room of (5+ / 0-)

    of fiscal cliff discussions.


    The red and blue lines were Romney's proposal, the green line Obama's proposed budget of last year, and the purple line the sequestration budget.

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:17:06 AM PST

  •  According to my union (5+ / 0-)

    the sequester would cost 80,000 public school teachers their jobs nationwide.

    Across the board cuts would be particularly devastating for education, where cuts would result in:
    • Services cut or eliminated for more than nine million students
    • Funding for children living in poverty, in special education, and Head Start slashed by billions
    • Class sizes ballooning
    • After-school programs eliminated
    • Programs for our most vulnerable – homeless students, English Language Learners, and high-poverty, struggling schools – decimated
    • Financial aid for college students slashed
    • Nearly 80,000 education jobs lost – at early childhood, elementary and secondary, and postsecondary levels.
    That's a pretty good reason to oppose the sequester.

    Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
    ¡Boycott Arizona!

    by litho on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 11:20:02 AM PST

  •  Is it legally possible (4+ / 0-)

    for an executive branch agency (the OMB) to refuse to spend funds appropriated by Congress even if that refusal is congressionally backed?

    Why could an executive agency do what the President such as Nixon via impoundment could not?

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