By now, you’ve probably heard of the so-called federal budget sequester. It was mentioned thousands of times a few months ago while the President and Congress did battle over the budget. It’s one of those things that a lot of people know about, but maybe don’t quite understand.
Last year – when the President and Congress were having trouble agreeing on a federal budget – measures were put into place that would trigger massive spending cuts if the two parties couldn’t agree by a certain deadline. The cuts were designed to be so severe that they would serve as motivation for both sides to come to an agreement. In other words, it’s the fiscal equivalent of Mom threatening to throw the video game console in the garbage if two brothers can’t agree on whose turn it is.
These threatened cuts were referred to as the federal budget sequester or sequestration cuts. The two sides couldn’t agree on a budget before the deadline, so the sequestration cuts went into effect earlier this year.
The good news is these cuts are so deep and so widespread that they’re projected to save the U.S. government over a trillion dollars over the next eight years. In effect, they’re forcing the United States to be more responsible with federal spending.
The bad news is, well, there’s a lot of bad news. In addition to being deemed too deep and too broad by politicians on both sides, it’s also considered to be a significant obstacle to the U.S. economic recovery. If you’re not a federal employee or contractor, you may think that you’re unaffected by the sequestration. That might not be the case.
Here are a few examples of programs impacted by the sequester according to ABC News, and how they might be impacting you:
- Defense – The Department of Defense was hit hard. Unless you’re a currently serving in the military, or work as a military contractor, this probably doesn’t impact you very much. One noticeable impact has been a lack of military flyovers at sporting events, which can be directly attributed to sequestration cuts.
- National parks – The budget for national parks was slashed over $150 million which has resulted in everything from fewer park rangers to longer cleaning cycles for national park restrooms.
- Weather – In addition to personnel furloughs, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was forced to cut back on the acquisition and maintenance of equipment including satellites that help forecast severe weather.
- Legal – If you end up having to go to federal court, be prepared to wait. Staffing cuts have forced long dockets and long waits, especially if you need a public defender.
- Education – Cuts to education budgets have resulted in fewer opportunities for parents looking to enroll their kids in Head Start programs.
So, why am I writing about a story that happened several months ago? Fair question. Well, the issue of the Sequester never quite went away and has been a sore spot for many politicians. As the President and Congress gear up to tackle the budget issue once again, expect more conversations about it in the coming weeks.
Has the sequester had an effect on your life? Tell us how in the comments.