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Friday, amid pressure from Congress, the Obama administration for the first time outlined how some $100 billion in spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 will disrupt thousands of federal programs if no action is taken to avert the fiscal cliff.
The automatic cuts, known as sequestration, are a kind of threat Congress implemented on itself in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Yet, they were never meant to actually happen.
As White House press secretary Jay Carney explained in Friday's briefing, the idea was to make the cuts so objectionable that Congress would come up with a more acceptable way to reduce the deficit.
"The sequester was designed to be bad policy, to be onerous, to be objectionable to both Democrats and Republicans," Carney said.
The detailed report is aimed at putting Congress into action. The Office of Management and Budget clarified in its introduction, "The specter of harmful across-the-board cuts to defense and nondefense programs was intended to drive both sides to compromise. The sequestration itself was never intended to be implemented."
But to date, no concessions have been agreed upon and the perilous looming cuts are coming closer to reality. The announcement brings the U.S. nearer to going over the dreaded fiscal cliff, which scores of analysts say will thrust the economy into a recession in 2013 by draining mountains of money out of the already besieged economy.