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‘Sequester’ Cuts Are Now Reality For America

Obama, Boehner (credit: Getty Images)

Obama, Boehner (credit: Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The “sequester” is now the law of the land, with President Barack Obama having signed the order Friday night that triggered $85 billion in mandated budget cuts.

As CBS 2’s Alice Gainer reported, the cuts will be gradual, for the most part, taking months actually to feel. And President Obama said he is not expecting a major financial crisis.

But some – in particular the middle class – will face furloughs and pay cuts that will cause a ripple effect, and a loss of 750,000 jobs.

Obama made the “sequester” cuts official just after 8 p.m. Friday. Government agencies now must cut $85 billion in spending.

Hours prior, Obama met with Congressional leaders in hopes of calling the whole thing off. But they were unable to come up with any last-minute agreement, and were still taking shots at one another.

Obama called the cuts “dumb and arbitrary.”

“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 Friday.

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.

Republicans said they don’t want to raise taxes again, since they just went up two months ago.

“Let’s make it clear that the president got his tax hikes on January 1st his discussion about revenue in my view is over,” said U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

But people want to know how the “sequester” will affect them.

“These cuts, they’re not going to happen today, or tomorrow or immediately. But if they are permanent, the impact on New Yorkers is going to be severe,” said U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who opposed the cuts from the beginning.

Gillibrand said she will work with Republicans to try to find a solution, because the situation is dire.

“It will hurt our economy, it will hurt our families, it will hurt our children, it will hurt our seniors,” she said.

When the cuts start kicking in, according to Gillibrand, the people of the nation will be heard.

CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported Friday that you could see higher prices at the supermarket thanks to less supply. Due to a cut in food safety programs, inspections of chicken, eggs, beef and pork will slow down.

For those out of work, weekly unemployment benefits will be slashed by 10 percent.

And if you’re going off on spring break sometime soon, there could be longer security lines and flight delays at the nation’s airports beginning in April because air traffic controllers may be furloughed by then.

No one is less happy about the situation at the airports than those who work there. As WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported, Newark-Liberty International Airport Transportation Security Administration Officer Stacy Bodtman is worried about a one- to three-week furlough.

“We live paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “A seven- to 21-day cut is going to impede a lot of people from paying bills, from making ends meet.”

Co-worker Hydrick Thomas said he needs every penny.

“We are the lowest paid employees in the Department of Homeland Security,” he said. “To lose one hour of pay has a serious effect on the employees’ income.”

While furloughs would not kick in for another month, overtime cuts could start as soon as two weeks from now.

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.

Meanwhile, cuts to the Department of Homeland Security budget could impact efforts by the NYPD to protect the city, according to Commissioner Ray Kelly.

“It’s an important aspect of what we do, certainly the Lower Manhattan Coordination Center, the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, Midtown Manhattan Security Initiative are funded essentially with federal dollars,” Kelly said.

Some police overtime programs are also funded by the federal government.

Superstorm Sandy aid may also be blocked as a result of the “sequester.”

Tri-State Area lawmakers had a range of views on the final “sequester” plan.

“I voted against it. I just felt from the very beginning that having these mindless cuts across the board made no sense, and again, if you see what’s happening at the airports, no one would advocate cutting airport security,” said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.)

Pallone said the idea was that there would be a rational budget proposal to avert the cuts, but “I was worried that that wouldn’t happen, which is one of the reasons I voted against it, because I’ve seen the Tea Party Republicans be intransigent about everything that involves the domestic budget.”

But U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said he voted in favor of the “sequester” as a last resort.

“I voted in favor at the time, because I felt that this was the only thing left. It was rather than bring the government to its knees,” he said.

Pascrell said he was hopeful that the political climate would change after President Obama was reelected, but there has been no such change.

Obama said he is hoping that pressure from the American people will force lawmakers back to the table on the issue. There is less than a month left to negotiate a plan to keep the government from shutting down, and a debt ceiling issue after that.

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