Journalism in the Public Interest

A Graphic Guide to the Sequester

From the budget terms you need to know to how it impacts your state, the best interactives on the looming budget cuts.

There's been a lot of talk of the looming budget cuts that, without a last-minute deal, must go into effect by 11:59 p.m. ET on March 1. Obama will meet with congressional leaders on Friday to discuss how to avoid the worst consequences of the sequester. 

What is the sequester, and how big is it? Here's our quick graphic guide, from the budget terms you need to know, to how it could impact your home state.

White House estimates of state-by-state impacts of sequestration, Washington Post, February 2013

How would your state be impacted by the sequester? This Washington Post interactive lets you search the state-by-state breakdowns released last weekend by the White House.



Interactive: Sequester Cuts by State, The Texas Tribune, February 2013

The Texas Tribune’s interactive makes it easy to see how your state ranks for proposed budget cuts. Use their graphs, or download the data for yourself.




Where the Cuts Will Come From, New York Times, February 2013

The New York Times graphs where the $85 billion in budget cuts would come from. The military budget could lose $43 billion, while health, education and other domestic programs could see $26 billion in cuts.



“Cliffhanger” Interactive: A Guide to the Gridlock, PBS' Frontline, February 2013

From sequester to “the Gang of Six,” the deficit debate should come with its own dictionary. Frontline's interactive gives a quick recap of the budget jargon you need to know.


Federal Grants to States Subject to Sequester Vary Widely Across Program Areas, Pew Charitable Trusts, February 2013

Roughly one-fifth of federal grant funding to states is subject to sequester, Pew reports. Pew charts what’s off-limits and what could come under the knife in cuts to federal grant funding.


The Looming Sequester, USA Today/Pew Research Center, February 2013

This graphic from USA Today and the Pew Research Center charts who Americans think is to blame for the budget crisis--and what Congress should do about it now (click to the last infographic). A more recent Gallup poll found similar results, with 45 percent saying the government should avoid the sequester.


Defense spending over 10 years: top 5 states, Pew Charitable Trust, February 2013

Defense cuts over the next 10 years wouldn’t hurt all states equally. Pew’s Stateline shows how states like Virginia and California would be hardest hit by lost Department of Defense jobs and defense contractor revenue.




Did we miss any great graphics? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

raymond fristrom

March 1, 2013, 12:19 p.m.

I am a dem that wishes the cut to happen. But only to the parts of gov. that need to be cut.  Defense spending is tops….corporate welfare is next ...  and we will need ax tax revenue if we are to reach our goal. During the great depression the tax was at 80% until the country got back on its feet. When reagan was prez it was 70% and this is when all the shit happened. He lowered it to 38% and since then its gone down to 28% for the wealthy and 48% for us bottom feeders,. the fiscal cliff deal should have stayed at 250k and then the tax went up. It would have gotten to all the doctors and laywers in this bracket. This is a major problem we have with healthcare. Doctors and laywers and hospitals and the drug companies need to be reeled in. as it is now the doctors and laywers missed the bullet.In my opinion the t ax needs tfor the 250k and above .

The offensive thing about this scenario is that, as always, the people at the top screw up, and everybody else has to tighten their belts.

They could target the cuts at the two trillion dollars per year that Donald Rumsfeld (on September 10th, 2001) said the Pentagon wastes every year, between layers of bureaucracy and internally-competing, redundant departments (the announcement is easy to find).

They could cut perks for politicians, making Congressmen pay for their own plane tickets to and from the capital or cover an entire staff of people to tell them what bills mean.

They could stop spying on every American’s Internet and phone connections, just in case we’re terrorists.

But no, education spending is a much better target, while they shake their fists at the low number of kids who go into technical careers.

Likewise, they could spend a few bucks per head to develop a national wireless Internet, since towns that have gone municipal see an immediate increase in tax revenue, due to the ease in shopping, creating businesses, and generally communicating.  We could tax dangerous (or zero-work) financial transactions that make people rich without expanding the economy, at everybody else’s expense.  But no, let’s raise taxes instead, with some lip service targeted at “billionaires.”

(Hint:  There’s no such thing as a billionaire.  Anybody who can access that kind of money shuffles it between bunches of companies, charities, and trusts.)

And, we could also go in an entirely different direction.  I’m not saying that we should, but an argument can be easily made that the value that the American government inherently produces (keeping markets stable, intervening in dangerous wars, stopping terrorism, advancing science, etc.) more than covers any debt.

Ranting and mild exaggeration, ahoy:

I’m not pro-government except to the extent that it can protect us from mob rule or corporate control.  But, if you take the United States government out of the picture, by the end of the month, Mexico, Japan, and Europe go right down the tubes, lacking our support.  The entire Middle East, a chunk of Africa, and most of the ex-Soviet republics go into a series of bloody civil and external wars, with their primary industry (oil) gone essentially gone.  With nobody to employ its people and buy crap from their factories, China goes next.

Minus (pretty much) South America, Canada, Australia, and southern Africa, our economy is the world’s economy.

That’s not to puff us up.  I find that absolutely terrifying, frankly.  But I do want to emphasize the scale of things, and the value of our economy.  Especially while dollars (which are printed without representing any commodity or labor) make the world go round, I’m saying that we could solve the budget problem by not taking on more debt to produce dollars.

We wouldn’t do it, of course.  It’s probably dangerous in the short term to let onto the idea that money doesn’t have or need value to be useful, after all.  But a step in that direction…

Anyway, point is that something that’s missing from all of these charts is how much of this is theater, making this look like it’s so hard for professional politicians to come to an agreement, that eventually they’re going to need special powers to run roughshod over minority opinions.

Corey Snelson

March 1, 2013, 1:32 p.m.

AAAS has a wealth of information on how the Sequester will affect biomedical research, including some pretty amazing graphics:

The ‘AAAS Sequestration brief’ has all the really important graphics from the source itself.

So, in REALITY, the “sequester” represents a TINY fraction of the WASTE, FRAUD, & ABUSE in FedGov programs…???...WTF?
Sequester? BRING IT ON!....
...isn’t it REALLY only a reduction in the rate of growth…???...
Boy, this could be almost as big as the Y2K bug….

I’d say the government’s apparent lack of leadership and decision making is intended. A government intentionally putting their country through constant turmoil, uncertainty, and crisis? Where have we heard of this before? George Orwell was just off by a few decades.

Friends,  Re: The Sequester.  We are witnessing a massive government sponsored, media driven scare campaign regarding cuts in everything from airports to meals on wheels.

Politicians should be ashamed to be a part of the massive scare tactics being used by the government regarding the reduction of spending increases within the so-called Federal “Budget”.  So, a reduction of less than 3% in spending Increases means we can’t fund what is already in place?  That is pure BS. Most people don’t understand the role that government subsidies play in our lives or the extreme difficulty politicians have in reducing them even for the benefit of all.  I have never been more ashamed of politicians and the news media than I am today.

This government should be ashamed of being part of such a inefficient failing administration of public trust.

Cut the real spending amounts by 1% each year for the next 10 years and people who’s lives are being supported by taxpayer subsidies will adjust and become more self-supporting.  Do not increase your “credit limit” on the taxpayer credit card by which our grandchildren will be enslaved.

Celia Janosik

March 1, 2013, 3:10 p.m.

Before anything else is done, the Congress, Senate and the President and Vice-President should receive no pay or benefits of any kind.  They are obviously not working with our best interests at heart.
Secondly all news reporting should be carried out by real journalists and they should receive FREE air time such as 1 hour every 6 hours and be paid by the money we are saving by not paying the above.
The top tax rate should be 70%.  No off shore tax havens.  No Soc. Sec. cap.  One payer health care system. 
We NEED renewable energy NOW or we will not have an environment in which to survive, no matter how wealthy one is.  We only have ourselves to blame.  Too busy is not an excuse.

I think it should be clear that gov’t spending + Fed policies are what is keeping this economy going at the .1% growth rate.  Fed policies are pedal-to-the-metal at present and can’t get more expansive.  Any reduction in gov’t spending at the Federal level will represent the inflection point ie. the FIRST time spending is being cut in many years.  This is an important point for the economy and the market as it is the first time for something which is key.  Personally I say bring on the sequester, but the consequences for all of us with this and the inevitable future spending reductions can no longer be offset by the Fed and will most likely cause a lot of pain.  I’m sure that this is why Obama is resisting expense cuts.  Richard Koo has a great book on his experience with this in Japan over the last 20 years.  This type of economics is not rocket science, but simple math.  I have seen all of this before in other countries.  It always ends badly.

I can’t read any of the chart pictures on my android, totally dysfunctional waste for this reader.

John: Thanks! You made all of my points plus added quite a few more.

arnold jesnick

March 2, 2013, 8:50 p.m.

Journalism in the Public Interest ????? Huh,feeding us the government prepared pap, where’s your perspective?  The cuts are miniscule compared to the debt our representatives have saddled s with.
What about the wonderful example our President has shown by spending outlandish taxpayer dollars on vacations and further compounds the abuse by using separate aircraft and security for the rest of the family.
No mention of the raises HE authorized for top government employees.
We expect better from Propublica and its not there.

Because the sequester is too small to affect all that much in the short-run, the impact of the lower pace of spending growth on government services will be as dramatic as the Obama Administration chooses to make it.  The government agencies can choose to trim back a little here and there to minimize the impact of the cuts (and thereby make the doom-sayers in the Administration look sort of silly), or the Obama Administration can give agencies the flexibility and encouragement to choose, in little hissy fits, to gut programs to show the non-entitlement public what cutting government spending is really about.  I expect a mixed bag of responses—if for no other reason that I believe that the Administration is so poorly run that it can’t coordinate getting the entire government to take the second alternative.

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