Last week I wrote about how automatic, across-the-board cuts scheduled to take effect in 2013 may never take place—because a new Congress can choose not to uphold budget cuts legislated by our current Congress.
But it’s also worth asking, if the next Congress does uphold these automatic cuts, called “sequestration,” what would they mean for the federal budget? The answer is big. Let me show you.
If sequestration takes place, we will live in a world very different from our current one. The blue line shows spending in fiscal year 2010, the last year for which complete data are available. Current spending on all non-military discretionary programs—that’s education, transportation, infrastructure, the environment, and lots of other things—is estimated to be just below where that blue line is. The red line is what President Obama projected in his last budget request. The green line represents cuts that were already scheduled to take effect before the super committee declined to submit a deficit reduction proposal, which then triggered sequestration.
The purple line is where we’ll be if sequestration takes effect. Why is that purple line so different from the blue line? Because it means that for every dollar the federal government spent in 2010, in the year 2013 31 cents will be taken from your local Head Start, federal grants for public transit, repairs to bridges and highways, and protection of clean air and water. It’s safe to say we’ll all feel the difference.