Sequestration's Real Damage

A blog about business and economics.
March 15 2013 9:39 AM

Sequestration Doing Real Harm to Real People

KABUL, Afghanistan--No college tuition for these guys.
KABUL, Afghanistan--No college tuition for these guys.

Photo by Jason Reed/Getty Images

I think the idea of sequestration as a macroeconomic killer was overblown from the beginning, but ever since Republicans stopped trying to call it the "Obamaquester," the tendency has been to underblow it with a wildly disproportionate amount of attention being paid to things like White House tours. The truth is that sequestration isn't going to lead to a single visible disaster, just a lot of slow-rolling sad stuff like this:

At least two Indiana Head Start programs have resorted to a random drawing to determine which three-dozen preschool students will be removed from the education program for low-income families, a move officials said was necessary to limit the impact of mandatory across-the-board federal spending cuts.

I doubt 36 poor kids losing their preschool slots will have a discernible impact on Q2 GDP. They'll switch into some lower quality day care option, and whatever negative consequences accrue from that won't be fully visible for decades. Further up the age range, there's this:

More than 250,000 troops will be denied tuition for classes this year because of mandatory cuts in federal spending, according to figures released this week by the Army and Air Force.
The Marine Corps also has cut its tuition assistance program for the year but had no estimate on the number of Marines affected.
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Again, not going to hammer the Q2 GDP numbers. Just sad for a few hundred thousand uniformed military personnel with the negative long-term consequences for America as a whole rippling out over the decades.

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

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