President Obama and Republicans have been facing off over the issue of sequestration and government spending cuts that will begin in a few days. The implementation of the sequester’s deficit reduction goals could have serious, negative implications for the public and the economy. Some of these cuts mean that thousands of federal workers could be furloughed.
The sequestration’s spending cuts amount to approximately $85 billion for 2013 and will be evenly divided between defense and non-defense related programs. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cuts could cost 750,000 jobs in 2013 and reduce GDP by more than half a percentage point. Many are blaming Congress, claiming that they should take an active stand on this issue. If no deal is made and the sequester takes effect, some essential federal workers may see a reduction in their hours or be laid off entireley.
As of now, it seems that the GOP is losing the sequester blame game. Recent polls indicate a surge in Obama’s popularity which has reached its highest levels since his first year in office. In contrast, the GOP currently has a low public approval rating. Judging by the optics of the situation, it is clear that Obama has a political advantage whereas congressional Republicans do not. Moreover, Republican support for the sequester means that cuts will be made across all facets of the government. Sequestration, however, was the “brainchild” of President Obama (in the words of Bob Woodward).
In the fiscal battle between lawmakers, the president and the GOP continue to blame each other for not reaching a decision. During President Obama’s weekly address, he stated: “Unfortunately, it appears that Republicans in Congress have decided that instead of compromising — instead of asking anything of the wealthiest Americans — they would rather let these cuts fall squarely on the middle class.” Yet, Republicans argue that President Obama was the one who proposed and promoted the sequester to begin with, and that he has ignored their other proposed spending cuts in favor of more tax increases. Republicans refuse to agree to additional tax increases until the President comes to the table on comprehensive entitlement reform.
The sequester will also lead to budget cuts for National Parks. In the case of Yosemite National Park in California, the park is planning to deal with the funding cuts by getting rid of some of its services through maintenance reduction. For example, trash pickup will become less frequent. As a result, park administrators are concerned that this could draw bears into the campgrounds of the park.
Almost all Americans, in some way, will be affected by these spending cuts. The economic impacts of the sequester could be devastating to the nascent economic recovery. As March 1st approaches, the budget showdown continues with no tangible resolution in sight.