Sequestration: A Harsh Reality

knife & billIn the second part of our two part series on sequestration, we are disheartened to report that $85 billion in cuts are due to take effect today as Congress failed to reach a deal to avoid sequestration. This development could hurt US growth prospects and dampens domestic and international confidence in Congress.

The sequester is reported to have a variety of deleterious effects on the US economy. Deutsche Bank’s chief U.S. economist, Joseph LaVorgna, stated that the sequester could take 40 basis points off 2013 gross domestic product, “and possibly higher, depending on whether the fiscal multiplier is positive.” This sentiment is reflected by the IMF, which last Thursday reported that the sequester would likely cut US growth rates in 2013 by at least 0.5 percent if the cuts are fully implemented.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, “should sequestration remain in place for an extended period of time, hundreds of thousands of families will lose critical education and wellness services through Head Start and nutrition assistance programs. The Department of Defense will face deep cuts that will reduce readiness of non-deployed units, delay needed investments in equipment and facilities, and cut services for military families. Federal agencies will likely need to furlough hundreds of thousands of employees and reduce essential services such a food inspections, air travel safety, prison security, border patrols, and other mission-critical activities.”

However, the consequences may not be as dire as first predicted and it could take a while before the cuts begin to negatively manifest themselves. For example, most of the pain will only gradually roll over Americans, CNN Money explains. Starting today, agencies will limit their contracts and grant awards, but furloughs won’t take effect until March 26 or later—the IRS, for instance, has said it won’t furlough anyone until after the April 15 tax filing deadline, the Washington Post reports. This means that the US may not immediately feel the effects of sequestration but rather, the sequester cuts are more akin to a slow burn rather than a searing heat.

While there are doubts about the extent to which sequestration will harm the economy and the American people at large, one thing is certain, the debate over the “sequester” has highlighted the scale of divisions in Congress and suggests that hopes of a grand bargain are becoming slimmer and slimmer. Furthermore, with the next mini-cliff scheduled to hit on March 27, it is hard to expect anything other than future Congressional tumult and further economic uncertainty.

Posted by: Matthew Goldberg

Sources: Associated Press, Office of Management and Budget, CNBC, Business Insider

Photo Credit: Cutting your Spending courtesy of flickr user Tax Credits

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