Several news organizations are reporting that if the Sequester is allowed to be implemented it will most likely not be felt by most Americans, and that even with the Sequester cuts 2013 spending will still be a net increase of 15 billion dollars over 2012.

Is this true? If so then why would the government need to furlough anyone?

  • Yes, he sequester is a cut in the growth in spending. The government doesn't need to furlough anyone, they could force everyone to take a pay cut and reduce growth in spending in that way.
    – user1873
    Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 21:27
  • 1
    @user1873 as far as I understand, the terms of the sequester do not dictate how the cuts are made - they are very high-level generic cuts and it is up to the specific departments' management to decide how exactly the cuts will be implemented.
    – StasM
    Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 21:35

2 Answers 2


According to this article: http://reason.com/blog/2013/02/19/what-will-sequestration-really-look-like the sequestration would cause 44 billion to be cut from the year 2013 budget.

CBO estimates that 2013 budget would have 3.553 trillion dollars in outlays, compared to 3.538 trillion in 2012. That means that the outlays of 2013 budget are indeed projected to be 15 billion higher than 2012 budget.

Note however that CBO projections are basing on current law and existing predictions of government revenues. The laws can be changed by the Congress, and the projections can be (and in the past, sometimes were) wrong. So we do not know if 2013 budget outlays would indeed be bigger than 2012 and by how much, we only know they projected to be more by 15 billion.

However, it is not entirely correct to say "sequester will result in an increase of spending". The sequester itself will result in decrease of spending, but combined with the fact that regardless of the sequester the spending is increasing, the net result would still be increased spending, albeit less of an increase than without the sequester.

  • So you are saying it will result in a decrease in spending over 2012 spending? Commented Feb 23, 2013 at 23:07
  • @Chad: I am saying the sequester itself will decrease spending, yes. But not enough so the spending in 2013 would be lower than in 2012.
    – StasM
    Commented Feb 24, 2013 at 0:37
  • Will spending be more in 2013 if sequester takes effect than it was in 2012? And if so why is there a need for furloughs Commented Feb 24, 2013 at 4:08
  • @Chad, a lot of contracts will give increasing amounts to the contractor each year, pay raises have been given (yes, I know of the pay freeze, but raises are still given), new contracts that had been made will start, etc. That is why the government can spend more vs 2012 and not have enough to meet it's obligations.
    – mikeazo
    Commented Feb 26, 2013 at 19:26
  • @Chad, regardless of sequester, spending is going up. The sequester just reduces how much. Most items in the budget grow automatically each year.
    – Osa E
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 20:16

If so then why would the government need to furlough anyone?

Government employment contracts include mandatory cost-of-living raises. Also, some of the year-to-year increase in spending will go to things other than federal salaries. For example, most Medicaid spending is spent by the states. Similarly, education spending tends to go to students (grants and student loans) or to schools. A significant amount of defense spending is on new equipment. All parts of government have to buy supplies, pay rent, etc.

The simple answer is that furloughs are less painful than other ways to save money. They could cut costs elsewhere, but they'd rather furlough. And of course, the initial estimates will exaggerate the furloughs, as sequester opponents would like to keep it from happening. Note that the people doing the estimating are government employees and subject to the reduced budgets.

So even though the sequester only restricts the rate of growth and does not provide a cut from one year to the next, it still restricts budgets in ways that are likely to lead to furloughs.

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