Teachers, FBI agents, and Border Patrol officers will not get fired tomorrow, when the sequester kicks in. The Internal Revenue Service will still be able to process your tax return in April. Preschool programs won’t kick out 70,000 little kids until the fall, according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan—and that’s if the spending cuts stick. Unemployed people, arguably some of the worst-off of the lot, will not see their federal benefits reduced by 11 percent until April at the earliest, says the National Employment Law Project. This is roughly four weeks away, giving Congress and the White House time to act beyond the March 1 deadline that has been touted in headlines and press conferences for the past week.
The immediate impact of sequester is “absolutely overhyped,” says Steve Bell, senior director for economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former Republican staff director for the Senate Budget Committee. “A sequester will occur and, the next day, the likelihood is that almost no one will know that it started.”…
So why all the shouting about these disastrous spending cuts? Well, in the long run (i.e., the next six months), they will put a drag on the economy, cost us jobs, and cut money from the federal budget in a blunt — rather than careful — manner. But for now, much of the doomsday talk is old-fashioned politics.
Sequestration is not an economic or policy fight. It’s an ongoing, roiling political argument about the amount of money the federal government spends and the manner in which it does it. This long-time spending argument between the political parties has been distilled in this round of fiscal warfare to a wonky-sounding word and given an ominous deadline. Yet, its greatest immediate legacy may be the fodder it has provided for the 24/7 news cycle and the ammunition it has given the White House as it tries to beat down the Republicans in the court of public opinion.