Running the Numbers: What the Sequester Will Look Like

Running the Numbers: What the Sequester Will Look Like

Been hearing a lot about the sequester?

That's because we are about to put these massive, across-the-board budget cuts into effect ... even though both parties claim that they don't want them.

How did we get here, and what will the sequester do to the economy?


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The Origin of the Sequester

Remember the debt ceiling stand-off in the summer of 2011? The final conclusion was the Budget Control Act of 2011, which included $1.2 trillion in budget cuts, as well as the requirement that a bipartisan supercommittee find an additional $1.2 trillion to cut. The law stipulated that if no agreement was reached, a broad range of spending cuts to programs near and dear to both Republicans and Democrats would occur—and they'd happen automatically.

The cuts were designed to be broad and arbitrary to make them “so unattractive and unappealing” that it would force the two parties to compromise.

Well, guess what. The bipartisan supercommittee couldn't agree on how to cut that extra $1.2 trillion. (Makes you want to rethink the definition of supercommittee.)

The task got kicked back to Congress, but since Democrats didn't want to agree on budget-cutting measures without raising taxes—and Republicans balked at raising taxes—the sequestration is looking more likely.

So if Congress doesn't intervene by 11:59 p.m. Friday, and President Obama signs a sequestration order (by all accounts likely), the sequestration will go into effect.

How It Breaks Down

While the amount of money may seem massive, President Obama has stressed that the cuts aren’t going to take place “overnight.” The cuts—a smattering of which we've laid out below—will occur over the next nine fiscal years, except where noted otherwise:

  • Total amount of future budget cuts: $1.2 trillion
  • Cuts to the budget for fiscal year 2013: $85.4 billion
  • Cuts to the Department of Education budget: $2.8 billion
  • Cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration: $600 million
  • Cuts to the Department of Defense: $42.7 billion (7.9% of its budget)
  • Cuts to Medicare: $9.9 billion (2% of its budget)
  • Cuts to the National Institutes of Health: $1.6 billion 
  • Cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: $323 million
  • Number of low-income women and children who will no longer receive WIC (The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) benefits: 600,000
  • Cuts to FEMA's disaster relief budget: $375 million
  • Number of the country’s 561 wildlife refuges that will close: 128
  • Number of wildlife refuges that will still have visitor services: 0

Image source: Flickr/Borman818


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