Have the federal budget cuts, known as "sequestration," had any impact on your personal life? How about the 16-day, partial government shutdown?
Despite all of the hand-wringing here in Washington, and President Obama's hysterical warnings of fiscal and social upheaval, economic pain and deprivation, relatively few Americans said these spending cuts had an impact in their daily lives, according to surveys.
The government's so-called essential services were not affected in any significant way. The economy grew, albeit very slowly, but it was growing slowly before the sequester cuts or the shutdown.
The country went about its business. The stock market rose to new heights, untroubled by the spending cuts, and earnings rose for many corporations, boosting their equity values which in turn benefited millions of 401(k) retirement plans for America's workers.
Furloughed federal employes got paid for their time off. And the economy continued to create more jobs, though at its same old, persistently sluggish pace.
You will recall that the automatic sequester came about in the Budget Control Act of 2011 that took effect on March 1, 2013. It called for $85.4 billion in annual reductions, that worked out to $42 billion in actual cash outlays.
To the average American, that sounds like a lot of money -- and it is -- but it's relatively a thimble full compared to a $3.6 trillion federal spending budget that is racing toward $4 trillion in the next couple of years.
The sequestration cuts didn't touch programs like Social Security and Medicaid, or federal pay rates, including the military.
House and Senate budget leaders are meeting to find a compromise on a long-term budget that could repeal the sequester cuts. But if they're not successful, the sequester will remain, reducing expenditures over the coming years.
Right now, the automatic sequester cuts are on track to significantly shrink deficits by about $1 trillion over the next eight years.
Sequester critics say this is a bad way to curb spending, because it is indiscriminate in its targets. Good programs get cut, while bad programs that should be slashed deeply or abolished, survive with their accounts mostly intact.
Still, the sequester has by all accounts been an effective budget cutting weapon at a time when Congress has been unable to agree on a slimmer budget. Or at least one that Obama, who worships at the altar of Big Government, will sign. Don't bet on that happening.
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