Washington (CNN) - Confused about those forced federal spending cuts which kicked in on Friday?
CNN’s Tom Foreman is answering questions about sequester on CNN and CNN.com.
Will there be job losses?
Clifford Ganaseb tweeted "How many jobs will be lost due to the forced spending cuts?"
It's all guess work at this point, but the Congressional Budget Office (which is pretty good at this sort of thing) thinks about 750-thousand jobs could disappear over a period of months. Here’s a point of reference: in January, the U.S. economy added about 157-thousand jobs, we we’ll lose around four times that many albeit over a greater period of time.
Exander-la-forgia followed up on that question with this tweet. "Why will so many people lose their jobs? What types of jobs will be lost?"
It’s just straight cause-and-effect in terms of government workers; if a department has less money for salaries and can't reduce pay levels, cutting jobs may be the only other recourse. But jobs will be lost beyond the government as well, particularly in companies or towns that are heavily tied to government spending.
Shar Howe says, "My husband lost his job today due to anticipated budget cuts, indirectly tied to the navy. Did other companies do this today?"
We’re not sure what private companies are doing, but it is a fair bet that some are hedging against lost government contracts and lost revenues now rather than taking the shock later.
How can we hold our politicians accountable?
Lauren asked on CNNpolitics.com, "Besides not voting for congress members when they are up for re-election, is there any other way we can hold them, and the president, accountable for not doing their job in passing a budget?"
Not really. You can donate to their opponents. You can call their offices. You can organize neighbors, make cardboard signs, and march around the Capitol banging tambourines and howling so years later you can tell your grandkids “we really took it to the streets!” But elections are the primary tool to punish leaders who don't lead, and you may notice that both parties do a pretty good job steering away from controversial matters like this when an election rolls around.
So that said, you might want to stick a note onto the refrigerator for the mid-term elections next year to remind yourself how you feel about things now...no matter which party you blame more.
Are these really budget cuts?
Sundevilsal asks, "Isn't it true that the sequester forces a cut in the rate of growth? Government is still spending more than last year."
That's ninety-percent correct. The actions we are talking about right now are an actual cut to the budgets of the affected agencies, or at least most of them (I am still making my way through the list, line by line) but federal spending in all these categories combined will be less this year.
For the next nine years of this deal, however, the sequester will only slow the rate of growth. So for example, if a department expects a six percent increase it may only get three, but it will still get an increase.
Will security for the president and Congress be cut?
Jbzmama tweets, "Do these spending cuts include the president and congress and their security?"
Yes and no.
Yes, because both the Capitol Police and Secret Service budgets are being cut five percent. But will that affect security for Congress or the president? No, probably not. The Capitol Police will handle most of the pain by reducing overtime. The Secret Service helps with counterfeiting and fraud cases, they take care of visiting dignitaries, embassies ... in other words there are many, many places they can and likely will absorb the cuts before there is any reduction in the president's protection.
Do the cuts affect my mail?
Mike y1056 asks, "What about mail delivery? Will there be Saturday delivery?"
The U.S. Postal Service has said it needs to cut Saturday deliveries to save money. Some industry groups and congressional folks are fighting that move (and we don’t know what Lance Armstrong thinks) but this has nothing to do with the sequester. The postal service does not use taxpayer money. It is funded by its own revenues, which have been in trouble for a long time because of the rising popularity of email.
Who pays for my congressman’s flights?
With member of Congress skedaddling out of D.C. as the cuts come down, many have asked questions about their culpability and responsibility in all this.
Bill Plante reached out on Facebook with a series of pointed questions. “We’re supposed to be in a financial crunch but the congressmen (and women) abandon ship with sequestration is about to kick in. Who pays for their airline ticket? Do they fly first-class, business class, or economy class? If the government pays economy class, do they pay the difference? It’s our money; we deserve to know!”
For starters, he is correct, it is your money. Congress members receive allotments to cover a wide variety of expenses for official business including travel. They have a good bit of discretion in how spend that money, but most don’t fly first class very often because it not only burns up the allotment faster but also exposes them to sharp political criticism. That said, many of them fly so much, they are sometimes upgraded to First or Business Class as frequent fliers.
Will Social Security be cut?
Nothing is more frightening for many seniors and people with disabilities than any kind of threat to their Social Security checks which, in all honesty, can be a lifeline for many.
Russ Blaze asks, “Will my SSI payments in late March be impacted by the sequester?”
No, not only is the big program called Social Security not part of the sequester plan, SSI – which is for disabled adults and children who do not have much money- is also specifically exempt from any cuts
What about student loans?
The Department of Education estimates some 15 million college students might feel some effect from the forced budget cuts.
Patrick Welden writes, “Will my federal student loans be put in jeopardy by the sequester?"
Howard Mauck says, "I'm a student about the graduate with a nursing degree in four months. I have loans, too. How will this affect me?"
The answer depends on precisely what you are talking about. Federal officials say the cutbacks could slow down the delivery of financial aid to some students who are counting on it. Work study programs could also be hit hard. Pell grants are exempted from the cuts this year, but not in future years if the sequester stays in place. Delays are also possible in the processing of FAFSA forms, which every kid in college and his or her parents must fill out for any kind of financial assistance. Such a delay could certainly complicate matters for millions of families who are trying to help their high school seniors pick the right college at this very moment.
Bottom line: If you are depending on a student loan to get into college next fall, you might want to work on a contingency plan to bridge the gap in case your check arrives late.
How will the military feel the cuts?
A fair number of questions have come in about the military, with specific concerns about troops.
Ian Ginn posted on Facebook, “How will the budget cuts from tonight and later on affect military pay? Will those who defend America be left broke and hungry?"
No, that is not going to happen. Despite the cuts to the overall defense budget, and despite concerns from military brass that the cuts are too deep, anyone in uniform serving this country is exempt from the sequester. So at least for now the plan is that they will face no pay cuts, and no furloughs. Civilians who work for the military and private companies with military contracts…well, that could be a different story.
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