At first, we were told, it was going to ruin everything. Then, it seemed, it was nothing at all. Now, though, it is becoming more and more apparent that the wide swath of federal budget cuts known collectively and ungrammatically as "the sequester" are causing serious annoyances to many and frightening threats to others.
The sequester is the latest in a long line of budget gimmicks cooked up in Washington Republicans and Democrats each blaming the other when Congress and the White House proved unable to come up with any real thoughtful spending plan, much less the Grand Bargain that all were supposedly in search of.
Our elected leaders set themselves a deadline March 1, 2013 by which time they were supposed to have reached a budget deal or automatic spending cuts of some $85 billion would kick in. The idea, supported at the time by both parties, was that the impact of such a large and, more importantly, sudden and somewhat scattershot drop in federal spending would be such a horrible threat that no one would want it to actually happen. The pressure to come up with a much more intelligent deal would, in theory, be so great as to force a better settlement.