Will Sequestration Really Be That Bad? (With CBS News Video)
The drastic, far-reaching budget cuts known as the sequester that are set to carve into the U.S. federal budget on March 1 are "bad" and "will visit hardship on a whole lot of people," President Obama cautioned Tuesday.
Indeed, Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., wrote in a letter urging the White House to tender an alternative -- the cuts would have a "potentially devastating impact" on his Commonwealth of Virginia and would likely "force" his and other states into recession.
Longtime Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., took his concern a step further, broadly claiming on MSNBC that Americans are "embarrassed" for having to bear yet another fiscal crisis, and deeming it "un-American in every sense of the word."
But as the U.S. economy careens toward its second "cliff" in two months, realization that a third waits at the base of the crevasse has moved some to observe that while sequestration is far from an ideal way to budget, the darkly-cloaked March 1 is not likely to yield the decade-long nightmare that has attracted handwringing by Democrats and Republicans alike.
It all began with one stalling tactic, which led to another: To help put to rest the 2011 debt ceiling drama, Congress and the president scheduled for 2012 a host of automatic spending cuts worth $1.2 trillion over 10 years, designed to be so blind and severe that Republicans and Democrats would be compelled to craft in the meantime an alternate, bipartisan agreement on deficit reduction. As lawmakers scrambled amid the "fiscal cliff" ordeal that seeped into 2013, they granted themselves a two-month extension.
Just over a week out, no feasible replacement exists.
Late last week Republicans began to concede the probability, inching ever higher, that Congress will not make its March 1 deadline, and the sequester, seen largely among both parties as economically devastating, will become a reality. And two days after his chief of staff insisted the White House has "not given up" on staving off the cuts with a substitute proposal, Mr. Obama on Tuesday sounded the alarm on the urgency for Republicans to come knocking with a plan.
"This is not an abstraction -- people will lose their jobs," the president warned.
During a discussion Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C., Mr. Obama's former debt commission co-chairs Erksine Bowles -- Bill Clinton's former chief of staff -- and Alan Simpson -- a former Republican senator from Wyoming -- laid out their proposal to achieve $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade. Bowles said that Congress is unlikely to coalesce before March 1, but will feel pressure to act once Americans begin to experience the effects of the sequester.
"When you guys have to go out here to [Washington, D.C.'s] Reagan Airport and you have to wait three hours to go through airport security, you are going to be pissed, and so is everyone else," Bowles said, referring apparently to the sequester's widespread furloughs expected to impact TSA and FAA workers.