The dreaded sequester went into effect last Friday, and as far as we can tell, the United States has avoided Armageddon. Indeed, the aggressive $85 billion package of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts might not really make its presence felt for weeks — if not months. But that doesn't mean no one is affected yet. Here, five groups feeling the pinch:
1. White House tourists
Always dreamed of touring the White House? Too bad. The White House has canceled all tours due to "staffing reductions resulting from sequestration." The Secret Service told NBC News that security officers normally assigned to the tours will be reassigned to other posts to reduce overtime costs. Republicans aren't buying it. Here's John Hart, spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.):
It's clearly a PR ploy. They can tour the country on the taxpayer's dime but can't allow taxpayers to tour the White House? Seriously? [Washington Post]
2. Students on federal lands
Most schools rely on state and local revenue and won't feel the effects of the sequester until next school year. But there are some big exceptions: The 1,400 school districts located on Native American reservations and military bases, which are largely funded by the feds. For instance, the Window Rock School District on a Navajo reservation in Arizona is considering closing three of its seven schools, according to The Washington Post. On Washington's Yakima Reservation, many students who already live in poverty could see funding for their schools cut by a fifth, according to The Huffington Post.
The situation isn't much better near military bases. Frank Till, superintendent of the school district that serves Fort Bragg, tells the AP that he might have to cut $800,000 from this year's budget. Ronald Walker, whose district serves Fort Riley, anticipated the cuts in January and had to delay long-needed repairs to things like plumbing, roofing, and air-conditioning. His message to Washington? "I think it's arrogant for leaders to turn their backs on our soldiers."
3. Defense contractors
The sequester includes $42.7 billion in cuts to defense spending. The official line from many aerospace and defense contractors is that it's too soon to speculate on the effects of the sequester. Privately, though, they have had to prepare for the worst. For instance, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes that Lockheed Martin has laid off 300 workers over the last few months. Joe Murphy, chairman of Ferco Aerospace Group, tells Fox Business that his company has been preparing for the sequester by shifting its business away from the government to the commercial sector. While the effects are currently limited to minor layoffs and hiring freezes, the Aerospace Industries Association estimates that around 1 million jobs could be lost if the situation isn't resolved.
4. National park visitors
This is the week that the roads around Yellowstone National Park are usually filled with snow plows preparing for the spring influx of tourists. Thanks to the sequester, the plows will stay parked for the entire month of March, causing Yellowstone to delay its opening by two weeks, according to Reuters. The total cost to surrounding communities who benefit from the seasonal economic boom? Around $10 million. Overall, the National Parks Conservation Association says the $110 million in cuts to the National Park Service budget will result in major job losses and service cuts in parks throughout the country.
5. Washington politicians
Surprise: The American public doesn't much care for the sequester. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that President Obama's approval rating has dropped 7 percentage points, to 43 percent, since the sequester fiasco began. More people blame the Republican Congress than President Obama for the mess, while 49 percent of independent voters blame both. In case you forgot, none of the politicians involved will see a pay cut.