The real problem with the sequester is that it unfairly targets the poor

A general view of the U.S. Capitol is seen from the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, February 25, 2013. Pressure is mounting on Congress and the White House to find a way to avoid a package of $85 billion in across-the-board-spending cuts, known as the
Selective math obscures the fact that upcoming cuts will hurt millions of Americans, possibly for years to come

Skeptics have downplayed the likely impact of “sequestration” – the $85bn cut in federal funding that’s slated to begin Friday – noting that it equals just 2.4% of total federal spending this year and that spending will continue to grow despite the cut. But this math obscures the harm that sequestration will do, not just to Americans across the country but also to the economy as a whole.
First, let’s examine the 2.4% figure. While accurate, it’s meaningless because the cuts aren’t occurring across the entire federal budget. Some programs, notably social security, are exempt, and the cuts to Medicare are strictly limited.
Instead, the cuts are concentrated in what’s known as “discretionary” programs, because Congress funds them on an annual basis (unlike “entitlement” programs, like social security, which have permanent funding). About half of discretionary spending is for defense; the other half is for a wide range of activities including education, medical and scientific research, law enforcement, environmental protection, international aid programs, and support for low-income individuals and families.
Discretionary spending accounts for about 35% of total spending, but it will bear roughly 80% of the cuts under sequestration.
Also, sequestration will have an especially big impact on some programs because it will occur nearly halfway through the fiscal year, which began last October 1. Some agencies will have to cut their programs more deeply in the remaining months of the year to hit the required savings target.
Millions of Americans will feel the impact. To cite just a few examples, we at theCenter on Budget and Policy Priorities estimate that the WIC nutrition programfor low-income pregnant women, infants, and young children will have to turn away 600,000 to 775,000 children and new mothers by the end of the fiscal year. We also estimate that more than 100,000 low-income families will likely lose housing assistance that helps them afford rent.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Labor estimates that the roughly 3.8m long-term unemployed workers who receive federally funded benefits will see their weekly benefits cut by nearly 11%. That translates into an average of about $140 per month loss for a jobless worker, many of whom may have exhausted their savings. 
Other cuts under sequestration could affect a broad swath of the public, slowing everything from the processing of social security applications (due to staff cuts at the Social Security Administration), to air travel (due to cuts in the number of airport security workers), to progress in developing ways to prevent and treat serious diseases (due to funding cuts for the National Institutes of Health)…



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