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Will sequestration be so disastrous?

For more than two years people have talked about sequestration, and to be honest, I haven’t paid a lot of attention to it.

All I really know is that it involves $85 billion in ham-handed cuts from various federal budgets, but just as big tax increases were avoided at the last moment in late 2012, I figure that Congress will find a way to get around the supposed disaster that sequestration would create.

Now, with only two days before the deadline, it appears nothing is going to happen.

What does it really mean?

I wonder.

From what I’ve heard and read, we’re facing the end of the world as we know it. Some commentators have said that because of budget cuts it will take forever to get onto an airplane.

Others have suggested that suddenly there will be no air traffic controllers, so flights will have to stop. Some have suggested that some airports will close. And Meals on Wheels will stop and Head Start will stop. FBI agents will be furloughed, and teachers will lose their jobs.

Sounds pretty scary, people starving, people’s educations being cast over the brink.

But I don’t fly or get meals on wheels or go to school, so I’m not too troubled.

The $85 billion in cuts is a lot of money. That’s a little less than $300 for every person in America. But that $85 billion amounts to a relatively small piece of the federal budget.

At the beginning of this year, almost everyone in America – at least everyone who was working – underwent a sequestration of their own.

The payroll tax for Social Security, which had been trimmed to 4 percent in an effort to stimulate the economy, was reinstituted. Most people with jobs saw their pay suddenly shrink by 2 percent just about the time gas prices, which had dropped to close to $3 a gallon, shot back up to $3.70 or so.

Meanwhile, other prices were going up too.

Now I know that the sequestration could involve furloughing workers. For them, that could result in a 100 percent drop in pay, but that is bound to happen no matter how the federal government manages to trim spending.

Personally, I think the prediction that the budget cuts will have a devastating effect on the economy is exaggerated.

But then maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps the cuts will send us into another recession. I hope not. I’m sick of recessions.

If the looming crisis is so dire, though, why over the course of more than two years has there been virtually no serious movement?

Are we playing chicken with the economy or is this just a game of political chicken?

All I know is that I, and almost everyone else, am sitting in the back seat, with no control over anything, while the powers that be on all sides throttle merrily along.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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