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Happy "Sequester Day!" At midnight, $85 billion in budget cuts go into effect. This wasn't supposed to happen: sequestering was designed to be so harsh that lawmakers would move mountains to prevent it. But on Capitol Hill, it's easier to move a mountain than to compromise. Only today did President Obama sit down with Congressional leaders. So, how bad will it get here in California? Correspondent Vince Gonzales points out whatever does happen will take a while.
Vince Gonzales/Correspondent: It's "S" Day -- Sequester Day -- and life goes on in Los Angeles. No massive layoffs have occurred. And no federal programs have been shut down. In fact, the scare over the sequester is being compared to the Y2K panic. News coverage of the cuts this week sounded more like an episode of "Fear Factor."
Attorney General Eric Holder [at press conference]: The American people are going to be less safe.
Ben Bernanke/Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank [at hearing]: It would be a drag on near-term economic recovery.
Woman: We're all holding our breath and hoping they don't cut the elderly nutrition program.
Woman: It becomes very hard to look at families and go, "Sorry, not today."
President Obama [at town hall meeting]: More than 2,000 college students would lose their financial aid. Delays at airports across the country. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids.
Gonzales: One news website even came up with a list of the "57 Terrible Consequences of the Sequester," a litany of disasters which have not materialized. Not yet.
Why? What most news coverage fails to mention is many programs and jobs are already funded into the summer or fall, and state and local officials have some control over how they implement the cuts. Also lost in the discussion is the fact the $85 billion in sequester cuts -- a tiny fraction of the federal budget -- will be phased in over the rest of the year.
President Obama [at press conference]: This is not a cliff, but it is a tumble downward. It's conceivable that in the first week, first two weeks, first three weeks, first months, a lot of people may not notice the full impact of this sequester, but this is going to be a big hit on the economy.
Gonzales: The rolling nature of the cuts was supposed to give Congress and the president time to find a compromise. But that prospect may be fading. Here is Speaker of the House John Boehner on Tuesday taking the debate to a new low.
Boehner [at press conference]: We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something.
Gonzales: So, what might happen in Southern California as these rolling cuts take effect over the next eight or nine months? There are no hard numbers, but some government employees will likely be furloughed after their unions negotiate the terms. National parks may have closure days or open campgrounds later. We might see longer lines at airport security. Communities dependent on military spending will start to feel the pain once contracts already in the pipeline are closed.
But those who don't have a gang of pundits eager to rant on their behalf -- the poor and disadvantaged -- will certainly be hit the fastest and the hardest by the cuts because they depend more on programs primarily funded by the U.S. government. Eventually, some college students may see work study dollars and financial aid dry up. Meals for seniors and children in need could be cut. And Head Start, a federal program that helps feed and prepare low-income children for school could take a massive hit.
Michael Olenick/CEO Child Care Resource Center: I'm concerned that we're just serving fewer and fewer kids. We're serving fewer kids, we're serving fewer families, and we increase poverty.
Gonzales: Michale Olenick is CEO of the Child Care Resource Center. His group operates 18 Head Start Centers in the L.A. area.
Olenick: There's not a lot of fat to cut. The only way to really cut that kind of money would be to cut staff back, if you cut staff back, you have to cut children back. So, if this goes on, next year we're looking at probably 80 children less than what we have now.