July 19, 2012
A meat axe approach to Washington’s budget deficit problem that hacks away at nearly every corner of American society - from farmers to weapons manufacturers - is spooking the very U.S. Congress that embraced the idea nearly a year ago.
Barring any decisions to suspend or alter the plan known as “sequestration” in Washington budget parlance, $109 billion in across-the-board spending cuts will kick in on Jan. 2, 2013.
They are an outgrowth of the 2010 elections, in which conservative Republicans swept into power promising to shrink the size and cost of government. Just months after those elections, Congress and President Barack Obama, a Democrat, signed off on nearly $1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years, with an iron-clad commitment to follow up with another $1.2 trillion.
Now, as the initial installment of that second round of spending cuts draws near, members of Congress facing re-election this Nov. 6 are beginning to worry that voters will not be pleased when they find out exactly how painful it can be to down-size government, especially if the belt-tightening stalls an already shaky economic recovery.
“We are known for a lot of dumb things up here. But this sequestration concept was really the dumbest,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham declared July 17.
On Jan. 2, approximately $54.5 billion in new spending cuts will hit the Pentagon while domestic programs will suffer an equal $54.5 billion in reductions. All of the cuts would be jammed into the nine remaining months of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, 2013, deepening the pain. (And Aviation Week has reported how defense contractors and analysts are claiming that work already has slowed due to federal officials’ uncertainty in the face of the looming cuts.)
The details of how the scalpel is to be applied would be determined by Obama’s budget office. The Republican-led House of Representatives on July 18 passed legislation demanding those details from the White House and the Democratic-led Senate has approved a similar measure.