To hear President Barack Obama tell it, the impending $85 billion in spending cuts to the federal budget known as the sequester are the worst disaster since Seth MacFarlane hosted the Academy Awards.
But before you dive deep into depression, here are five facts that should take the sting out of the sequester.
1. The Cuts Are Tiny!
The actual cuts in fiscal year 2013 are only $44 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The rest don't even take place until 2014 or later. Whether you use $44 billion or $85 billion we're talking about 1 or 2 percent of total government spending.
2. Spending is Still Going Up!
Even with the sequester, the federal government is expected to spend more this year than it did last year. The government spent $3.5 trillion in 2012 and i expected to spend $3.6 trillion in 2013 (see Summary Table 1).
3. The Pentagon Won't Starve!
The largest chunk of cuts will come out of the defense budget, which has doubled over the past decade. The Pentagon will still have about $500 billion at its disposal, not counting war-related and emergency appropriations.
4. You Can't Cut Nonexistent Programs!
The White House's Office of Management and Budget says the sequester will cut a whopping $2 million from the $20 million budget for the National Drug Intelligence Center. That sounds pretty bad - until you realize the Drug Intelligence Center closed its door in June 2012.
5. It Was All Obama's Idea!
The whole damn sequester was the Obama administration's idea. As the Washington Post's Bob Woodward has reported, despite Obama's denials to the contrary, "the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House" as part of the deal to raise the debt limit back in August 2011.
So as members of the president's cabinet and party rail against the draconian nature of the sequester and the unfairness of it all, it's worth keeping in mind that these cuts are genuinely puny.
And that the president has nobody to blame but himself.
About 2 minutes.
Produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie, who also narrates.
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