A week into sequestration, the Huffington Post surveyed how local television news reports have covered the cuts. Local stations "did tend to dig more deeply into the ramifications of the cuts, looking at how people around the country … will be affected in their daily lives," the website reported. Those ramifications included Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, Texas, trying to induce retirements in order to avoid having to fire people, while nearly two dozen county employees around Salt Lake City have been fired. It's not hard to find other grim sequestration stories: Air Force civilian employee furloughs will cost Ohio $111.1 million in lost wages, according to the Dayton Daily News; Customs and Border Protection will start furloughing 60,000 employees in April; the Army, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard have suspended tuition assistance programs; control towers in more than 200 general aviation airports nationally are expected to be closed; dairy exports could fall by $500 million, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The list goes on—I know because Democrats have sent out regular roundups of such local news stories to demonstrate that the sequester has teeth. That's also why Obama's Organizing for Action grassroots group is collecting citizens' sequestration stories.
And voters are taking notice, despite what much of Washington seems to think. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Wednesday found 53 percent of Americans disapprove of sequestration while an amazing 72 percent disapprove of Republicans in Congress. And by a margin of 47-33, Americans hold that same congressional GOP responsible for the much-maligned spending cuts.
The question now is how long will it take for these feelings to gain discernible political traction. Specifically, will Republicans feel (dangerously) emboldened in August when the next debt ceiling showdown is expected, or will reality have chastened them?
- Read Susan Milligan: What the GOP Can Learn from the Catholic Church's Pope Francis Pick
- Read Peter Roff: Ted Cruz Is Becoming the GOP's Top Salesman
- Read the U.S. News Debate: Should Balancing the Federal Budget Be a Top Policy Priority?
Corrected on 3/16/13:An earlier version of this column incorrectly characterized previous instances of dramatic deficit contraction. The deficit reductions which book-ended the 1960s occurred at a slower rate than the current fiscal retrenchment.