Unless you've been living under a rock for a while now, you know the basic story about the automatic budget cuts that kicked in on March 1. Depending on who you listen to and how they figure things, as much as $85 billion in planned spending is being cut from a $3.6 trillion budget in fiscal year 2013 (which ends on September 30, 2013).
But of course, that's not quite right. It overstates the amount of cuts by 48 percent, or about $41 billion. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) noted in February, just $44 billion is being cut in actual 2013 spending: "additional reductions in outlays attributable to the cuts in 2013 funding will occur in later years."
The cuts are mainly coming from what's known as the discretionary budget, which covers stuff like defense spending and various sorts of programs whose spending totals are voted on every year. A small portion of the cuts will also come from mandatory spending, which covers entitlements such as Medicare. As the CBO does the math, of the $44 billion in cuts made this year, "Discretionary outlays will drop by $35 billion and mandatory spending will be reduced by $9 billion this year."
To hear the Obama adminstration tell it, the cuts are "Devastating" (that's the subject line in an email I just received from Stephanie Cutter of BarackObama.com. She continues:
Thanks to Republican obstructionism in Congress, the nation was forced into the sequester last Friday - a series of automatic and destructive budgets cuts that you and your neighbors are just beginning to feel.
I'm not sure it was Republican obstructionism alone that caused the sequester. A quick review of the matter shows that not only does the president bear responsibility for insisting on automatic cuts as part of the August 2011 deal from whence all this sprang, both parties are up to their arses in obstructionism. And when it comes to exaggerating the effects of the sequester, the Obama adminstration is doing its best to make the Pinocchio industry the top sector of the American economy. In just the past seven days, the "Fact Checker" at The Washington Post - no ardent enemy of Obama's general agenda - has awarded the president and his pals three separate "four Pinocchio" ratings (the worst possible) for wild claims about the sequester's effects on congressional janitors and public school teachers.
We're not quite yet a week into the sequester - "Devastating"! - but it's not too soon, is it, to ask how things are going?
Here are 5 scenes from a sequestered America. From a shuttered White House to a silenced Army band to the nation's airports to tinder-dry combustible cities to food programs aimed at poor kids and mothers, things are surprisingly...uneventful.
To read this as a single page, click here.
Next: Life in the Beggared White House...