The “unilateral” “across-the-board” sequester cuts seemingly absolve government of any responsibility.
Actually, the opposite is true. While some decreases in the growth of government are mandated, and government has less flexibility than usual particularly as to the defense budget, government still controls the pain meter.
The key word in the sequester political debate is “could.”
The data released by the Obama administration, as reprinted in WaPo, detail what “could” happen (emphasis mine):
The state-by-state impacts of sequestration
To pressure congressional Republicans to compromise on a way to prevent the looming $85 billion in automatic spending cuts, the White House on Sunday detailed how the so-called sequester — scheduled to take effect March 1 — could affect programs in every state.
The list of “could” happens is extensive, here’s are just a couple of excerpts from the numerous charts in the WaPo article:
Of course, none of this decrease in services “must” happen. Are we to believe that the budgets of these various federal, state and local providers are so lean that even a cut of a percent or two from the current budget (which almost certainly is much higher than just a year or two ago) would result in diminished services?
The government, by and large, will decide how much pain you suffer.
“The good news is, the world doesn’t end March 2. The bad news is, the world doesn’t end March 2,” said Emily Holubowich, a Washington health-care lobbyist who leads a coalition of 3,000 nonprofit groups fighting the cuts. “The worst-case scenario for us is the sequester hits and nothing bad really happens. And Republicans say: See, that wasn’t so bad.”
In the long partisan conflict over government spending, the sequester is where the rubber meets the road. Obama is betting Americans will be outraged by the abrupt and substantial cuts to a wide range of government services, from law enforcement to food safety to public schools. And he is hoping they will rise up to demand what he calls a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction that replaces some cuts with higher taxes.
But if voters react with a shrug, congressional Republicans will have won a major victory in their campaign to shrink the size of government. Instead of cancelling the sequester, the GOP will likely push for more.
How much pain will you feel? Wait for it.