Ed. note: To see state-by-state effects of the sequester on jobs and middle-class families, click here.
In less than a week, harmful automatic cuts — known as the sequester — take effect, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs, and cutting vital services for children, seniors, people with mental illness and our men and women in uniform.
To prevent a costly, self-inflicted wound to our economy and middle class families, President Obama put forward a plan to avoid these cuts and reduce the deficit by cutting spending and closing tax loopholes. Now it's up to Congress to act. Learn more about President Obama's plan here.
Still have questions about what the sequester is, and why American famillies and our national economy face this threat? We've put together the explainer below using some helpful background information President Obama laid out in a statement on Tuesday. Check it out:
$2.5 Trillion in Deficit Reduction
"Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce our deficits by more than $2.5 trillion. More than two-thirds of that was through some pretty tough spending cuts. The rest of it was through raising taxes — tax rates on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. And together, when you take the spending cuts and the increased tax rates on the top 1 percent, it puts us more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances."
So What's the Sequester? Why Now?
"Now, Congress, back in 2011, also passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach that $4 trillion goal, about a trillion dollars of additional, arbitrary budget cuts would start to take effect this year. And by the way, the whole design of these arbitrary cuts was to make them so unattractive and unappealing that Democrats and Republicans would actually get together and find a good compromise of sensible cuts as well as closing taxloopholes and so forth. And so this was all designed to say we can't do these bad cuts; let’s do something smarter. That was the whole point of this so-called sequestration."
"Unfortunately, Congress didn’t compromise. They haven't come together and done their jobs, and so as a consequence, we've got these automatic, brutal spending cuts that are poised to happen next Friday."
"Now, if Congress allows this meat-cleaver approach to take place, it will jeopardize our military readiness; it will eviscerate job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research. It won’t consider whether we’re cutting some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness, or a vital service that Americans depend on every single day. It doesn’t make those distinctions."
A Way Forward, A Balanced Approach
"There is a smarter way to do this –- to reduce our deficits without harming our economy. But Congress has to act in order for that to happen."
"Now, for two years, I’ve offered a balanced approach to deficit reduction that would prevent these harmful cuts..."
"I am willing to cut more spending that we don’t need, get rid of programs that aren’t working. I’ve laid out specific reforms to our entitlement programs that can achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms that were proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission."
"I’m willing to save hundreds of billions of dollars by enacting comprehensive tax reform that gets rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well off and well connected, without raising tax rates."
"I believe such a balanced approach that combines tax reform with some additional spending reforms, done in a smart, thoughtful way is the best way to finish the job of deficit reduction and avoid these cuts once and for all that could hurt our economy, slow our recovery, put people out of work. And most Americans agree with me."