Obama’s ‘Sudden, Harsh, Arbitrary’ Sequester Only 1.2 Percent of 2013 Spending, Enough to Run Gov’t 4.5 Days

Matt Cover | February 13, 2013 | 4:20pm EST
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(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(CNSNews.com) – In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama described the upcoming sequestration cuts as “sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts,” claiming they would “devastate” important government functions and cost “hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

However, according to Congressional Budget Office figures, the cuts amount to only 1.2 percent of 2013 spending, which is enough to keep the government running for about 4.5 days.

“These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness.  They’d devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research.  They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs,” Obama said on Tuesday.

However, in its latest budget projections, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) explains that the sequester, a package of automatic spending reductions, would amount to only $44 billion in cuts in 2013, a mere 1.2 percent of total spending.

“By CBO’s estimate, budgetary resources for defense (other than spending for military personnel) will be cut by around 8 percent across the board, and nondefense funding that is subject to the automatic reductions will be cut by between 5 percent and 6 percent,” states the CBO.

“According to that estimate, discretionary outlays will drop by $35 billion and mandatory spending will be reduced by $9 billion this year,” the CBO said in its Budget and Economic Outlook report issued on Feb. 5.  (See pages 10, 11 and 14  in report.)

(AP Photo)

The CBO estimates that total federal spending will be $3.6 trillion for 2013, meaning that a cut of $44 billion would amount to only 1.2 percent of total spending – a sum that would keep the government afloat for 4.5 days.

The amount of spending cut by the sequester in 2013 is the equivalent of approximately 4.5 days worth of federal spending. On average, the government will spend approximately $9.7 billion per day in 2013, meaning it would take approximately 4.5 days to spend the $44 billion cut by the sequester.

More pointedly, the CBO estimates that with the sequester in place, federal spending will be $3.553 trillion in 2013. With the $44 billion in sequester cuts removed, federal spending would rise to $3.597 trillion, which includes a little over $1 trillion in borrowed money, i.e., debt.

The sequester is a set of automatic spending cuts that target defense and non-defense spending. Originally proposed as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 by President Barack Obama, they were designed to force Republicans to raise taxes by holding defense spending hostage.

Now, Republicans say they are prepared to allow the cuts to go through, saying that if President Obama wants to avoid them, he should propose a plan that does so.

“We’re weeks away from the President’s sequester and the President laid no plan to eliminate the sequester and the harmful cuts that will come as a result of it,” House Speaker John Boehnr (R-Ohio) said at a news conference Wednesday.

“It is incumbent upon the President and Senate Democrats to show us their plan to stop the sequester from going into effect.”

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