The tax deal that Democrats and Republicans struck early this year delayed the so-called sequester -- the automatic spending cuts that affect all government agencies and program -- until March. If Congress can’t reach a deal before then, almost all areas of government stand to lose something in the range of 5 to 8 percent of their budgets.
Take Head Start, which helps kids prepare for kindergarten along with other services for low-income families. It would have to drop 63,000 children from its programs -- kids the Head Start staff already have relationships with.
"And now to have to say to some of them, 'sorry, [you] can’t come back, there’s this thing in Washington that made us have to lose the funding,'" says Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association.
Along with cuts to Head Start, throw in reductions to most all other domestic programs, from the FAA to FDA.
“They’ll be less money for people who keep our food and our drugs safe, that worry about safety in the workplace, safety on the highway, monitoring of the weather,” says Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The Pentagon is the government agency with the most to lose.
Army lieutenant colonel Elizabeth Robbins says the sequester would wipe out $46 billion from the Department of Defense accounts this year. Additionally, because Congress has yet to pass a new budget, they’re still operating at 2012 spending levels.
“We instituted a hiring freeze, we started terminating 46,000 temporary and term employees and we started planning to furlough our 800,000 civilian employees,” she says.
Already, two ships, the Truman and the Gettysburg, that were supposed to head to the Middle East and North Africa tomorrow are staying in port.
With all these cuts, it’s probably easier to summarize who’ll be spared: Social Security, part of Medicare, and some safety-net and veterans programs.