President Obama is urging Congress to delay the more than $1.2 trillion in automatic sequestration cuts, set to take effect March 1, through a suggested mix of minor revenue-raising tax reforms and spending cuts. The proposed plan would merely buy the deadlocked Congress time, once again kicking the task of creating a more comprehensive solution further down the road.
Meanwhile, federal employee unions have swiftly denounced a plan proposed by House Republicans to postpone sequestration by allowing the federal government to only hire one new employee for every three who leave.
“Slashing the workforce to generate a year’s worth of savings is like cutting off your arm to lose weight for the prom,” said NFFE-IAM Federal District 1 President William R. Dougan. “Congress created Frankenstein and now they’re panicking that it is coming to life. They created this problem and it’s their job to fix it. Why should federal employees suffer because Congress cannot clean up its own mess?”
In preparation for the fast-approaching deadline, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memo to agencies instructing them to prepare for furloughs, among other options.
The Defense Department announced last week it has already begun eliminating some 46,000 temporary civilian workers ahead of the possible budget cuts. A total of nearly 800,000 defense jobs could be threatened in all. However, a recent report shows even if the Army furloughs every one of its more than 250,000 civilian employees, the service may still not be able to make payroll under sequestration.
In addition to the direct agency cuts, economists continue to warn that more than a million jobs will be lost if sequestration takes effect.
“Bring on the unemployment,” reads a recent op-ed in the New York Times. “The first jobs to go will be in the defense sector, but the losses will soon spread as contracts to states and cities are cut, education and police grants are cut, and payments to Medicare providers are cut. Even the aid just approved for victims of Hurricane Sandy will fall under the sequester’s axe. Americans are about to find out what happens when an entire political party demands deficit reduction at all costs, because those costs will be enormous.”
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