Imagine that! Six Democratic and six Republican members of Congress were unable to agree on how to cut $1.2 trillion in government spending. Next thing you know, dogs will start chasing cats. But partisan political realities aside, now that the budget-cutting congressional Super Committee has failed to do any budget-cutting, some $1.2 trillion in "automatic" spending cuts are required by law to take effect in 2013. Which, if any, government programs will have their budgets cut and which, if any, will not?
Created as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, enacted in August 2011 to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a government default, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction - the "Super Committee" was given until November 23, 2011 (almost four months) to agree on a plan to cut $1.2 trillion in spending over the next 10 years. But less than a week after the national debt exceeded $15 trillion, the Super Committee admitted super failure.
To "encourage" the committee members to reach an agreement, the bill established $1.2 trillion in "automatic" spending cuts to be imposed if they failed, which they did.
As mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, the automatic $1.2 trillion in spending cuts is to be evenly divided between defense and non-defense spending.
However, none of the automatic cuts are to take effect until 2013, giving Congress over a year to modify or override the automatic cuts.
While some Senators and Representatives of both parties have hinted they would introduce legislation to block or limit the automatic spending cuts, the White House has stated that President Obama would veto any such bill.
The "Hurt" by the Numbers
Under the Budget Control Act, 18%, or about $216 billion of the automatic budget reduction will come from reduced interest costs it is assumed the government will save by reducing the $15 trillion national debt by that $1.2 trillion.
This leaves $984 in required automatic spending cuts. Mandated by law to start in 2013 and to be spread out over the next nine years, the automatic cuts are to be divided equally between defense and various non-defense domestic programs. Assuming the cuts are averaged over the ten year period, this will mean cuts of about $55 billion a year from the Department of Defense budget alone.
Exempt from the cuts will be Social Security, veterans benefits, food stamps/SNAP, Medicaid and other assistance programs for low-income people. Cuts to the Medicare program, while allowed, are to be limited to no more than 2 percent and will be subject to congressional approval.
Clearly, the U.S. military stands to be the biggest loser in the automated spending cuts derby. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the Defense Department would soak up an immediate 10% cut to its projected $550 billion budget in 2013 alone.
On November 14, 2011, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Congress that the cuts to the defense budget would "cripple" the U.S. military, leaving it with the smallest ground force since the 1940s.
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