The Congressional Budget Office is warning that the cuts could plunge the nation back into a recession. The respected Bipartisan Policy Center has said the cuts could cost more than a million jobs -- and because the government relies so heavily on private contractors, those won't just be bureaucrats who are out of work -- yet achieve little when it comes to long-term debt reduction.
According to BPC's calculations, the cuts would simply delay by two years the point at which publicly-held debt surpasses 100 percent of the GDP. The reason these big cuts do so little long-term? "It tries to take 10 percent of deficit reduction out of less than one-third of the budget -- and it's the part of the budget growing slowest,'' said BPC's Steve Bell. Bigger structural drivers of deficits, such as entitlement spending and tax expenditures (deductions and credits that sap revenue), are left relatively unscathed.
The question now is not who's to blame, but what can be done to replace these risky cuts with a more sensible plan? While the BPC issued a plea for Congress to act before the election, the House has cavalierly canceled its October work session and will head home shortly to campaign.
The election isn't likely to provide either party with a mandate. That's why the key questions candidates should have to answer in the weeks ahead is how sequestration could be averted and whether they're willing to compromise to reach a balanced long-term debt deal so vital to the nation's future.