If the country can survive these first few weeks without any major disruptions (like long lines at airports), the sequester may turn out to be a great big non-event. In fact, the average person may see no difference at all in his daily life. According to Joe Scarborough, writing in the Times today (my emphasis):
But it is also a fact that this year’s reductions will not do great damage to domestic and defense programs. Congress will have $85 billion less to spend this year, but the Congressional Budget Office projects that the actual cuts implemented this year will amount to only $42 billion out of a $3.5 trillion budget. That means that politicians will have to cut a little more than a penny out of every dollar that it spends this year.
Does Mr. Obama really want to claim that his administration, which has added $6 trillion to the national debt, is unable to save a penny out of every dollar it spends? Does he really expect Americans to believe — after four years, the banking and auto bailouts, several stimulus bills and a run of record deficits — that our $16 trillion economy cannot absorb $42 billion of spending reductions?
Scarborough makes a good point: we may not even notice the cuts.
But on the same page, Charles Blow writes:
The director of the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the sequester could cost 750,000 jobs in 2013 alone.
If that sounds like a lot of jobs, it's because it is. But that's only about 62,500 a month. And at a time when the economy is creating about 150,000 non-farm jobs each month, it would lower that number to about 100,000.
So what does all this mean? While Americans may not feel the cuts in the sequester, the economy will. Reduced spending by the federal government will slow GDP growth and job creation. Not dramatically, but significantly.
Now, whom do you think will get the blame for that in, say, 2014 or 2016, the Republicans in Congress? I'd say that President Obama and the Democrats will be held responsible by the American people. Can't you just hear Republicans in 2014, or the GOP candidate for president in 2016? "The economy's still sluggish. The president's policies haven't worked!"
Democrats had better hope for long delays at airports, or something. Because only if Americans are directly inconvenienced will Republicans get blamed for the cuts.