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Sequester Pentagon cuts start to bite

Charles Schumer (D-NY), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL) hold a news conference on the eve of the budget sequester on February 28, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Budget cuts known as the sequester haven't had the grave economic impact some had predicted. But the coming days pose a big test, as the Pentagon starts furloughing 650,000 civilian workers to save $1.8 billion.

Sean Hackbarth works in congressional affairs for the Pentagon. For him, the furloughs' impact is pretty clear: half a month's paycheck.

"We love serving, but we kind of feel like the sacrificial lambs in this whole thing. A cut in pay can mean a car payment or rent," he says.

And that can have ripple effects, says Lawrence Mishel with the Economic Policy Institute.

"These people aren't losing their jobs, but they're not shopping in the local supermarket or drugstore or buying clothes," Mishel says.

The Pentagon has tried to soften the fallout of the sequester's biggest budget cuts. It trimmed the number and length of furloughs and pushed them back to the summer.

Jim Roberts, with the Heritage Foundation, is no fan of the sequester, but he's not sure furloughs will drag down the economy.

"There might be some areas of the country where they may be felt, but I don't think this will have as large an impact as some complain that it might," Roberts says.

Except for the 650,000 civilians who will lose up to half a month's pay.

About the author

Sabri Ben-Achour is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the New York City bureau. He covers Wall Street, finance, and anything New York and money related.
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