The end of the world is coming – or not – depending on who you listen to.
The sequester – a series of sudden, deep cuts in military and domestic spending – was supposed to be so terrible and unthinkable that it was set up specifically to force Washington to work together on an alternative budget.
Even with all the dire warnings from President Obama and some congressional leaders about these looming spending reductions, there seem few signs of panic on Capitol Hill now that they are just 12 days away.
Massive cuts to federal budgets are set to start on March 1st.
Has Congress been concerned?
You wouldn’t think so.
After the House voted Thursday to extend a two-year pay freeze for federal employees, it took off for a week’s recess.
The quiet will probably end starting today.
The rhetoric will ramp up about how crucial, popular government services are about to die — including many threats that could eventually come true.
In 1995 and 1996, budget fights between President Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans led to two government shutdowns.
Some threats came true, others did not.
We’ll have to wait and see, but it won’t be pretty because this time is not a possible federal shutdown but a so-called sequester.
Between March 1st and September 30th — the remainder of the government’s budget year — it would mean cuts of 13 percent for defense programs and 9 percent for other programs, according to the White House budget office.
Add in nearly $1 trillion more cuts over the coming ten years.
Here’s what the White House says could happen:
Active duty military at war would be protected, but there’d be fewer Air Force flying hours, less training for some Army units and cuts in naval forces which can affect deployment.
The Navy says it can’t deploy as many ships as needed to the world’s hotspots and civilian workers will have to be furloughed.
A $3 billion cut in the military’s Tricare health care system could cut elective care for military families and retirees.
The private defense industry would be hit as the Pentagon says it would have to restructure contracts to reduce scope and cost.
The National Institutes of Health would lose $1.6 billion. That’ll cut cancer research and end funding for hundreds of other research projects.
There would be far fewer tests for the AIDS virus and almost 400-thousand people might not get mental health services.
Over a half-million low-income pregnant women and new mothers would lose food aid and nutrition education.
Meat inspectors could be furloughed up to 15 days, shutting meatpacking plants intermittently and costing up to $10 billion in production.
They’ll be fewer border agents and places to hold detained illegal immigrants.
Reduced Coast Guard air and sea operations and furloughed Secret Service agents.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund would lose more than $1 billion.
Seventy thousand Head Start pupils would be taken off the pre-kindergarten program.
Layoffs of 10,000 teachers and thousands of other staffers because of cuts in federal dollars that state and local governments use for schools.
Throw in cuts for programs for disabled and other special-needs students.
Most of the Federal Aviation Administration’s 47,000 employees would face furloughs, including air traffic controllers, for an average of 11 days.
Less EPA monitoring of oil spills, air pollution and hazardous waste.
Cuts in economic aid to foreign countries.
The country’s 398 national parks would either be closed out have their hours cut and up to 128 wildlife refuges could be shut down.
Oil, gas and coal development on public lands and offshore waters would be cut because the agency would be less able to issue permits, conduct environmental reviews and inspect facilities.
Almost 4-million people unemployed for six months or longer could see their benefits reduced by as much as 9 percent.
Thousands of veterans would lose job counseling.
Nearly $900 million in cuts to NASA, including money to help private companies build capsules to send astronauts to the International Space Station.
And then the Department of Housing and Urban Development says about 125,000 poor households could lose benefits from the agency’s Housing Choice Voucher program and risk becoming homeless.
There’s a lot more but you get the idea.
That’s the Democrat side.
As for the Republicans, they say sequester is going to happen and it won’t be that bad, maybe ever a good thing.
That’s like telling your mother you’re scared to go to sleep because there’s a monster in the closet and she says, “Shut up and go to bed.”