Don't Expect To Notice Sequestration

A blog about business and economics.
March 1 2013 9:02 AM

Sequestration Is Here: Don't Expect Anything To Happen

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WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 2: U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) watches during a news conference to discuss legislation to replace defense spending sequestration on Capitol Hill February 2, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Now that sequestration is upon us, it seems like a good time to relink to my column about why sequestration will probably be a bust and most people won't notice. The key issue here isn't that 8 percent across-the-board cuts to domestic discretionary programs will have no impact on Americans' everyday lives. It's that they won't have much impact on American's everyday lives over the month of March.

Agencies have seen this coming, and even the very stringent terms of sequestration leave some flexibility in place. Life will go on today, and life will go on next week.

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The real issue is that the Continuing Resolution that funds the discretionary functions of the government expires on March 27. If that expires with no replacement we get a government shutdown—you'll notice that. But if Democrats and Republicans reach an agreement on how much to spend in the replacement CR, then that legislation will almost certainly supersede the sequestration rules. Which isn't to say it'll eliminate the problems associated with sequestration. Republicans will presumably be trying to insist on very low levels of appropriations. So there's plenty to worry about. But don't expect anything in particular to happen this week. The game is whether we have a government shutdown in late March and whether avoiding a government shutdown involves entrenching very low levels of spending on things other than Medicare and Social Security.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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