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A sequestration of federal spending, scheduled to take effect on March 1, 2013, would mean $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts. (LIN/Jessica O. Swink)
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Updated: Thursday, 21 Feb 2013, 12:08 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 21 Feb 2013, 9:13 AM EST
(LIN) — The “fiscal cliff” is SO two months ago. The new slang is “sequester,” and if you don’t know what it is, you aren’t alone.
In fact, it would probably not be too far fetched to assume that a majority of Americans don’t know how to even pronounce the word “sequestration,” let alone care at all about how it could affect them.
Put as simply as possible, the sequester is a multi-billion dollar package of spending cuts scheduled to take place on March 1 to cut the country’s deficit. Sequestration will do away with $55 billion in defense spending and cut $27 billion from non-defense spending in 2013.
And here’s where I’ve probably lost you, which leads to reason number one why you probably don’t care about the sequester: Those numbers are virtually too big to even matter.
Twenty years ago, if a child told you that they wanted $1 million so he could be rich, you’d laugh, pat him on the head and say “Me, too,” knowing that $1 million was far out of reach for anyone. But, millionaires were harder to come by 20 years ago, and today’s club isn’t as exclusive.
Today’s aspiring child might give you the magic number of $1 billion, because it’s a number we hear more often, and we know that it’s “bigger” than $1 million.
Even still, you’d probably laugh, pat the child on the head and dream yourself about how you could even spend that much money.
That’s because the idea of owning $1 billion is too far-fetched to even make sense to most of us.
So when financial headlines talk about $85 billion being cut from our economy, it’s as if a master switch is flipped somewhere and a majority of Americans’ brains are turned to standby mode.
And that’s not even the big number. The biggest number in this whole conversation is $1.2 trillion, which is the amount of cuts needed in the next 10 years.
A game of chicken
Numbers aside, sequestration is nothing more than another political tactic designed by our leaders in Washington to get what they want. By now, the doom and gloom projections about our very way of life that come from Capitol Hill or The White House are almost laughable, because worst-case scenarios rarely come true.
Take the most recent “fiscal cliff.” It was all the media talked about at the end of last year, with claims that more people would lose their jobs and taxes on many Americans would substantially increase. This financial doomsday was slated to happen on Jan. 1, 2013, but the day came and went, and Congress was able to work things out a few days later to avoid these ramifications.
Instead of figuring out a plan then, they just pushed everything to a March 1 deadline two months later. And here we are.
In fact, the entire reason sequestration is even being discussed right now is because President Barack Obama signed The Budget Control Act in 2011. This was when the scare of government shutdown was so real, Obama decided to give Congress two years to find a solution to the country’s spending problem, that he threatened his self-described “meat-cleaver” solution to the country’s largest-item on the expense report: The military.
In a sense, both Congress and the White House have been playing a game of chicken with Americans for many years. So why should this time be any different?
It’s not just the inflated numbers and hopelessness of relying on our leaders in Washington to play nice with each other.
By the time we all take time to understand and learn what exactly is going on, a deadline comes and goes, and we are on to the next major crisis.
Now, it’s sequestration. But we’ve been through a fiscal cliff, a debt ceiling, a potential government shutdown, inflation, a subprime mortgage crisis and a housing bubble all in the past 10 years.
The real, scary truth
Unfortunately, if the sequester happens, many people could lose their jobs. One-third of the entire Pacific fleet of the U.S. Navy will cease operations. The FAA will furlough most of its 47,000 employees for at least 11 days. One in every 13 preschoolers would be cut from the Head Start program across the country.
You might not care at this time about the looming sequester, or even bother to take it seriously. But, if these massive cuts happen, every American could feel the effects in one way or another, and it won’t be fun.
There would be longer lines at airport security (and fewer flights this summer), fewer IRS employees to answer tax questions and we could begin paying more for a pound of ground beef.
Some governors are already projecting that the sequester could force their states into recession, and some military operations on the East Coast are already warning employees that there is a real chance their job is on the line.
Our future well-being depends on politicians, as it has for many years.
While it may seem like you can’t do anything about it, the very least you can do is try to educate yourself on what’s happening – funny money and alphabet soup aside – so when it comes time to vote new leaders into office, you’ll have more control of future situations.
While the country’s budget has been spiraling out of control for years now, there are people out there that have plans to make things better and less doom-and-gloom for Americans.
And when all else fails, gather your friends and for a rousing game of “use as much political jargon in one sentence.”
You’ll be sequestering your doubts of your political leaders into a tiny bubble, bound to inflate itself through any ceiling that stands in its way.
Bonus points if your name is Cliff.
Gen Y is a weekly opinion piece covering issues that matter most to younger, influential voters through their late 30s. Jessica O. Swink, a 20-something, is the digital political producer for LIN Media and contributing editor to onPolitix.