NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — They just couldn’t get anything done.
A high-stakes meeting at the White House to avoid the next fiscal cliff at midnight ended with no deal, but instead another round of the blame game.
The reason we have the budget cuts is that government spending has soared. The national debt has increased 81 percent since President Barack Obama took office. It’s now more than $16 trillion, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Friday.
President Obama called the automatic spending cuts “dumb and arbitrary,” but signed an order enacting them on Friday night.
“None of this is necessary. It’s happening because of a choice that Republicans in Congress have made. They’ve allowed these cuts to happen because they refuse to budge on closing a single wasteful tax loophole to help reduce the deficit,” Obama said.
The president is doing everything he can to get his message across. When asked why he didn’t use force to keep both sides at the table, the Obama told reporters, “I’m not a dictator… I’m the president.”
He even evoked “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.”
“Most people agree that I’m presenting a fair deal. The fact that they don’t take it means that I should somehow, you know, do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right,” the president said.
Nevertheless, just after 8 p.m. the president had no choice but to order government agencies to slash their budgets by $85 billion.
The president and his nemesis, House Speaker John Boehner, do agree on one thing: it’s happening because the Republicans adamantly refuse to raise taxes again after dong so just two months ago.
“Let’s make it clear that the president got his tax hikes on Jan. 1. This discussion about revenue in my view is over,” Boehner said.
Despite the president’s tactic of predicting scary things if the cuts go through, the immediate impact is uncertain. Job furloughs take a month to out into effect.
The cuts would slice 5 percent from domestic agencies and 8 percent from defense programs between now and Oct. 1. Several major programs will remain untouched, including Social Security, Medicaid and food stamps.
“The longer these cuts remain, the greater the damage to our economy … a slow grind that will intensify with each passing day,” the president said.
The biggest cuts — $46 billion – will hit the Pentagon. General Ray Odierno said the Army alone will have to stop training 80 percent of its troops.
“We might have to delay deploying people because they’re not properly training,” Gen. Odierno said.
That concern has some House Republicans urging their speaker to make a deal.
“We have the responsibility to protect our nation’s defense and to make sure that those who we send out to war have the things that they need to carry out their mission and return home safely,” said Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.).
Long Island Republican Rep. Peter King said he’s concerned about Sandy relief and 9/11 programs, but believes cuts can be done in ways that soften the blow.
“Usually it’s meat ax approach though. With sequester, there are going to be some areas that are hurt more than others, but we are still trying to figure it out,” King told WCBS 880 reporter Paul Murnane.
“The people I represent understand that A: We have to do deficit reduction and B: You can’t do it just by cutting spending or just by increasing taxes. You have to do both,” said Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
He fears a heavy hit to already struggling state economies with the pain increasing as the cuts kick in the coming weeks and months.
“Economists suggest that it could take anywhere from a half a point to a full point off of the nation’s GDP at a time when we just can’t afford it,” Murphy said.
Funding would also be slashed at airports, schools, the defense department, the FBI and other federal agencies.
Unfortunately, the “sequester” is just the first of a series of budget crisis that will hit Washington in the next few months. Looming all too soon is the March 27 deadline to avoid a shutdown of government. In April, there will be the standoff on raising the debt ceiling.
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