For weeks, the political buzz word in Washington and abroad has been the confusing term known as sequestration. Although it sounds complicated, the meaning behind the term is actually quite easy to follow. A sequester, in understandable terms, is an automatic, across-the-board spending cut in the federal budget. If lawmakers in Congress don't come to an agreement on government spending this Friday, the sequester would disrupt a number of services and affect thousands of jobs.
Still not understanding the concept? Never fear because Hip-Hop Wired looks at the looming spending cuts and what it means for regular folks with a simple guide.
Is Sequestration A New Concept?
The idea of automatic spending cuts to offset budget deficits and curb government spending has been around since 1985, with then-President Ronald Reagan signing the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act into law. The law essentially was drafted to automatically cut funding for certain programs in order to balance the budget.
What Services And Programs Will See The Effects Of The Sequester?
With an expected $85 billion in cuts projected to happen by the end of the year if sequestration goes forward, the military, and agencies such as the FBI, SEC and other big time federal programs will have to lay off thousands of support staff and cut funding.
So The Country Is Saving $85 Million, Correct?
That's not exactly how it works. With sequestration, the money doesn't actually go anywhere because there's nothing projected in the fiscal budget to account for goods, services, jobs and other related matters. More importantly, perks like free national parks, monuments, food inspection programs, unemployment benefits and even public zoos will feel the pinch if the budget cuts happen.
So Why Is The Sequester Issue Not Solved Yet?
Congress is divided right now with Republicans holding a majority of votes in the House of Representatives, and Democrats controlling the Senate. Back in 2011, a bipartisan group of congressman wanted to trim down the massive $1.5 trillion deficit and find ways to plug the hole.
Democrats wanted a plan to raise taxes by a slight margin on the wealthiest Americans. Republicans, sticking to core conservative values, didn't want any raised taxes and instead called for spending adjustments. This is what the whole fiscal cliff debate from late last year was mostly about and while a slight compromise was made, both sides are clearly sticking to their guns.
So Who Wins With The Sequester? Republicans Or Democrats?
Nobody wins, to be honest. Many Republicans don't want sequestration to move ahead as it will cut over $40 billion in military spending. Democrats fear the budget cuts because it will spell doom for programs like Head Start and valued agencies like the National Institutes of Health. The cuts would also shakeup the payout of unemployment benefits, put thousands of federal employees out of work and the potential to deeply impact the already sagging economy.
Shockingly enough, some conservatives think a sequester will be a good idea if sides can't agree on reducing the deficit in a sensible way.
What Happens Now?
President Barack Obama introduced his Deficit Reduction Plan, which would replace the sequester with a series of spending cuts and pulling revenue from a variety of sources. Senate Democrats have also come forth with a deficit trimming bill that didn't sit well with Republicans either, as it called for taxation on the rich and cuts in the defense budget. Republicans don't want the deficit issues addressed via means of raising taxes, thus plugging the holes for any upcoming discussions.
Experts think the sequester will happen, prompting Republican congressman to relax their stance and follow the will of the voting populace – most who agree that raising taxes on a small percentage of Americans and keeping necessary government programs funded is the right thing to do.
Although it's easy to point blame at the anti-tax ideals of most Republicans, there is also an unwillingness amongst some Democrats to get a deal done, too. What remains now is a waiting game of sorts as Congress continues to sit on their hands over this matter.