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.
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. - 
Listen To The Story
Marketplace

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.

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.