Sequester time is here
President Barack Obama speaks to the media about sequestration in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington on March 1, 2013 following a meeting with U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner and Congressional leaders.
The much-discussed sequestration went into effect today, which means dramatic across-the-board cuts for a number of industries in the country -- including defense, health care and education. How much will this affect our economy?
"We will see in the coming months that everything will have this layer of uncertainty around it," said The Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy. "We have other problems from the last fight -- from the fiscal cliff -- with payroll taxes having gone up, it's going to really muddy all of our understanding of the economy. But the sequester will hurt the economy -- there's really no way of getting around that."
"It's hard to tell where our economy is. We've had some good data, we've had some bad data. So it's not as if we have perfect knowledge of where we are in terms of coming out of this recession, so that we can tell where we're going to go," said The Guardian's Heidi Moore. "So this could go on for months. Where this would put us -- we're not on such a good path already. We're probably going to be stagnating for the next few months whether or not the sequester happens."
Listen to the full audio for more analysis of the sequester. And here are Reddy's and Moore's longreads picks for the weekend:
Sudeep Reddy suggests:
- Ninety-nine percent of the species to inhabit Earth have gone extinct. Ross Andersen looks at what could happen to humans.
- As sequestration arrives, the Hamilton Project offers 15 smarter budget-cutting ideas from across the political spectrum.
- ProPublica's Charles Ornstein on end-of-life care.
Heidi Moore writes: "In honor of the sequester and my recent obsession with "House of Cards," the great political drama on Netflix, my best reads this week are all about the culture of Washington. The more you read (and see) about the way political operatives work, the more clear the reasons become for these manufactured crises: in Washington, it is better to be talked about than not talked about."
- Marin Cogan has a brilliant piece -- full of not-safe-for-work language -- in The New Republic about the sexual politics of reporting in Washington. It's titled, winningly, "House of Cads." The story is direct, full of horror stories of awkward come-ons -- comparing professional women to porn stars, for instance -- but it also illuminates the byways of power and how it's exercised in the nation's capital, bringing to mind stories like the ones behind Claude Chabrol's "A Girl Cut in Two." The best quote in the story comes from Atlantic editor Garance Franke-Rutka: “I think journalism schools should have workshops for young female reporters on managing old men who have no game and think, because you’re listening to them intently and probing what they think and feel, that you’re romantically interested, rather than conducting an interview.”
- My second favorite read this week has to do with the fascinating dustup between veteran millionaire journalist Bob Woodward and White House economic adviser Gene Sperling. They sparred over the sequester, and Woodward soon made the rounds of TV talk shows saying that a private email exchange with Sperling left him threatened. This struck many reporters, including me, as very dubious -- nasty fights are the coin of the realm when it comes to political communications directors, who take great joy in comparing notes on the abuse they heap on reporters, and vice versa. Moreover, Woodward is as powerful, if not more so, than Sperling: the Watergate scandal and the book and movie of All the President's Men mean that Woodward's name will live in the top pages of history, where Sperling's name will be best known to political operators. What makes the whole thing really fascinating, however, is the actual email exchange that was released by the White House. Sperling comes off as conciliatory, and even a bit timid. That led to a hilarious tweet from Huffington Post political writer Paul Blumenthal: "I'm old enough to remember when the White House would out your CIA agent wife in retaliation instead sending obsequious e-mails."
- And finally, the last read of the week is this life-affirming story in the New York Times about a man who found a baby in the subway. It's the most beautiful thing you'll read this week, and maybe this year.