'Sequester Snooze?' You May Not Be the Only One
While politicians in Washington fan the flames of economic doom from Friday's sequester—the billions in automatic spending cuts scheduled to begin going into effect—they've apparently failed to light a fire under many Americans.
Just on anecdotal evidence, readership on all things sequester at this website at least seems to have tapered off this week. (Read More: Are You Ready for Pain of Sequestration?)
And the business world seems to be indifferent, according to analysts, with the markets having priced the sequester into equities, as stocks and bonds remain unfazed.
So why the couldn't-care-less attitude? Reasons for the "sequester blahs" vary— from the expectation that just another political squabble will eventually end in a deal, to media hype, to even a sense of bring it on.
Hardly scientific and certainly not a full representation of readers, a look at posted comments on CNBC.com and other sites shows how some people seem to be taking the sequester in stride, if not wanting it to just plain happen. (Some editing to posts for reasons of spelling and punctuation.)
From Beeboo: "Washington is doing it again, wait to the last minute, I keep saying, get rid of all of them all 535 . Let's start all over, and let's limit their terms to ONE."
From Wicked_Smart: "This is right up there with the Mayan apocalypse ... $85 billion in cuts still leaves $915 billion of an annual deficit. This will come, pass, and nobody will notice."
From NewDay12: Shut everything down...who cares.....people should know how to fend for themselves anyways ... if you rely that heavily on the government you have bigger issues in your life."
From 2B: "The pathetically too small sequester doesn't even reduce the growth of spending but somehow only things that truly affect the most Americans will be cut. We could get rid of 90% of the Departments of Education (in effective, counter productive) and Energy (totally focused on the wrong issues) and nobody would notice outside of the employees themselves."
On ABC.com, posted from newcountryman: "How can the 'cuts' be so bad when the government will actually spend MORE $$ next fiscal year even WITH the sequester???"
And there's this from Anonymouse on NorthIowaToday.com: "No one cares! If the Federal government shut down tomorrow, I wouldn't notice."
"I think people can't get their minds about what the effects of sequestration will be," said Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody's.
"It's not like a tax increase that hits everyone at the same time. These furloughs and layoffs and budget cuts are abstract right now. It's not real to people yet," Zandi said.
There's proof to Zandi's statement. A recent survey showed that fewer than one in five of those polled said they understand very well what would happen if the sequester went into effect.
Zandi also said that the Washington blame game is confusing the issue.
"People are very suspicious about the politics of it all and who's right and who's not," said Zandi. "They don't know who to believe and don't really understand the seriousness of it all."
One analyst said people might be too busy to even notice what's going on.
"So many people are working long hours, trying to feed the family, and just keep their heads together. I don't think they even have time to focus on sequestration," said Timothy Nash, an economics professor at Northwood University.
Nash said the past battles over taxes and budget cuts has left many with a boring sense of here we go again.
"We had the recent 'fiscal cliff' scuffle, and the debt ceiling fight before that last year, and we'll have that battle again this year. It just seems to go on and on for people," Nash said. "They're getting immune."
"Also, people are somewhat apathetic about the economic recovery," he added. "They're frustrated. But I'm still amazed at how they don't take the sequester seriously. They need to."
Even if many are ignoring the sequester, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that majorities of Americans believe the sequester is not a good idea and that the contentious budget negotiations make them less confident about the U.S. economy. (Read More: Americans Call Sequester a 'Bad Idea': NBC/WSJ Poll)
By 52 percent to 21 percent, the public calls the sequester a "bad idea" rather than a good one, the poll found. Nor do Americans feel good about the way President Barack Obama and Congress are dealing with each other on the issue; by 51 percent to 16 percent, they say budget negotiations so far make them less confident about the economy.
Barring a deal between Congress and the White House, the $85 billion in automatic, government-wide spending cuts this year begin to go into effect on Friday. Most government agencies have funds available after Friday, but the clock would be ticking on how long they can keep operating. (Read More: Obama to Meet With Lawmakers but After Sequester Deadline)
One of the biggest problems from the cuts is the number of government workers placed on furloughs or laid off. Those worker notices would go out on Monday. (Read More: Job Cuts Could Be Expensive to Firms)
Among the agencies expected to be hit hard first is the Transportation Security Administration. It would be forced to reduce its workforce, including a seven-day furlough for airport screeners, which would increase passenger wait times at most of the nation's airports by more than an hour. Fewer air traffic controllers would also be on the job, increasing wait times even more.
"That's when people will really start to feel the impact of sequestration and probably be upset very fast," said Zandi. "Long wait lines at airports, national parks closed, job losses and fewer government offices open will wake a lot of people up." (Read More: From the Schoolhouse to the Factory Floor, Girding for Cuts)
Until then, it's just theater of the absurd, said Mark Zupan, the Dean of the University of Rochester's Simon School of Business.
"Its like a Kabuki dance that politicians make over these budget issues," Zupan said. "People are getting tired of it and that's why they don't have much interest in it."
At least one reader on this site agrees.
From Paul McGe :Another way sequestration could affect me: it could put me to sleep. ZZZZzzzzzzzz.....