Spending Cuts: What You Need To Know

By Jeanne Sahadi @CNNMoney

The budgets of most federal government programs and agencies will shrink on March 1.

Congress could prevent that from happening, but it’s not likely to do so before the deadline.

It’s still unclear, however, whether Congress would let the so-called funding sequester stay in effect for long.

So one way or another, here come the cuts.

What is the sequester exactly? It’s just a fancy word for automatic, across-the-board cuts in funding.

How much will be cut? The sequester would slash how much federal agencies are allowed to spend by $85 billion over seven months.

The White House estimates that funding for nondefense programs would be cut by 9%, while defense programs would be cut by 13%, for the seven months remaining in fiscal year 2013, which ends Sept. 30.

The funding reductions would come primarily from what’s known as discretionary spending. Discretionary spending supports a vast array of programs, agencies and services from the FBI to the FDA to support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

There would also be some cuts in mandatory spending, which unlike discretionary spending isn’t subject to annual review by Congress. But popular entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security would be largely protected. So would safety-net programs such as Medicaid and food stamps.

Also exempt: military personnel and Veterans Affairs, although veterans may be hit in other ways, especially since they’re a big part of the Defense Department’s civilian workforce.

continue reading »