The Sequester - What is it

Harmful automatic budget cuts — known as the sequester — threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs, and cut vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness and our men and women in uniform.

These cuts will make it harder to grow our economy and create jobs by affecting our ability to invest in important priorities like education, research and innovation, public safety, and military readiness.

Have questions about what the sequester is, and why American famillies and our national economy face this threat? We've put together the explainer below using some helpful background information President Obama laid out in a statement. Check it out:

What Is the Sequester? Why Now?

In the last few years, President Obama and both parties in Congress have worked together to reduce our deficit by more than $2.5 trillion through a combination of spending cuts and increased tax rates.

In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if they couldn’t agree on a plan to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion — including the $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction lawmakers in both parties have already accomplished over the last few years — about $1 trillion in automatic, arbitrary and across the board budget cuts would start to take effect in 2013.

“The whole design of these arbitrary cuts was to make them so unattractive and unappealing that Democrats and Republicans would actually get together and find a good compromise of sensible cuts as well as closing tax loopholes and so forth. And so this was all designed to say we can't do these bad cuts; let’s do something smarter. That was the whole point of this so-called sequestration."
—President Obama

Unfortunately, Congress hasn’t compromised, and as a consequence, harmful cuts — known as the sequester — begin March 1.

These cuts will jeopardize our military readiness and eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research, and don’t take into account whether they eliminate some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness, or cut a vital service that Americans depend on every single day.

Sequester Impact Graphic

To prevent a costly, self-inflicted wound to our economy and middle class families, President Obama put forward a plan to avoid these harmful cuts and reduce the deficit by cutting spending and closing tax loopholes. Most importantly, his plan protects the investments we need to help strengthen the middle class, grow our economy and keep our country safe. Read more about President Obama’s plan.

"I believe such a balanced approach that combines tax reform with some additional spending reforms, done in a smart, thoughtful way is the best way to finish the job of deficit reduction and avoid these cuts once and for all that could hurt our economy, slow our recovery, put people out of work. And most Americans agree with me."
—President Obama

Now it’s up to Congress to act by replacing deep cuts with a more balanced approach — one that asks the wealthiest to pay a little more instead of forcing our children, seniors, troops, military families and the entire middle class to bear the burden of deficit reduction. The President is willing to compromise, but on behalf the middle class, he cannot accept a deal that undercuts their economic security.


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