(RNN) – First the "debt ceiling," then "fiscal cliff," and now the latest hot-button phrase you're hearing out of Washington that is giving Americans something to worry about is "sequestration."
Sequestration is Washington's fancy word for forced government-wide spending cuts.
The across-the-board trim aims to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the next decade. If Congress takes no action, the spending cuts will be imposed March 1.
Congress agreed to the Budget Control Act of 2011. Republicans required scheduled cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, an attempt to get a handle on the growth of the U.S. national debt. The amount owed by the U.S. exploded upward when the 2007 recession hit and now stands at more than $16 trillion.
Federal budget cuts to the tune of $85 billion for 2013 will begin on March 1. That's 9 percent of all non-defense spending and 13 percent of the Pentagon budget in the next 7 months.
More than $500 billion will be cut from the Defense Department and other national security agencies, with the rest on the domestic side - national parks, federal courts, the FBI, food inspections and housing aid. Medicare providers will see a 2 percent cut.
Education funding will be subject to cuts ranging from 9.1 percent (in 2013) to 5.5 percent (in 2021), according to the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities. The cuts will be distributed across various education programs based on current funding levels.
Social Security, Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program, food stamps, military personnel and Veteran's Administration.
The Congressional Budget Office said sequestration can kill 750,000 jobs in 2013 alone and plunge the economy back into recession, contracting gross domestic product by 1.3 percent in the following six months.
Danny Werfel, of the Office of Management and Budget, said putting the sequester into effect would, "cause very significant disruptions that would be felt far and wide across the country."
These are some OMB details:
Sequestration can be avoided, if Congress and the White House agree on a plan to reduce the deficit.
The last time the Senate passed a full fiscal-year budget was April 29, 2009. Instead, it has used short-term fixes to keep the federal government funded.
Tuesday, Obama urged Congress to pass a short-term deal that puts off the cuts, allowing some time for a long-term deficit reduction plan.
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