The deadline is here. Time has run out. The sequester becomes law Friday.
On March 1, $85 billion of government spending is scheduled to disappear. It's the first cut of a planned $1.2 trillion reduction in the growth of government spending in the next decade. Americans have been threatened with longer wait lines at airport security, uninspected hamburgers, and aircraft carriers staying in port, unable to patrol dangerous waterways.
Eliminating $85 billion from Uncle Sam's spending between now and the end of the government's fiscal year at the end of September is equivalent to the median American household cutting spending by $1,000. The cuts are real, and they will require sacrifice if they are enacted. Real jobs will be affected. Real families will feel the pinch. But it's not the size of the cuts that's the challenge. It's the dysfunction of the debate.
With the stock market hovering near five-and-a-half-year highs, investors clearly are not worried about $85 billion disappearing from government programs. Nor are they concerned about the possible ripple effect of hundreds of thousands of civilian government workers furloughed one day per week.
But the inability of Congress and President Barack Obama to find common ground, or even common goals, and avoid legislating by deadline undercuts any longer-term economic confidence displayed by shareholders.
Tom Hudson, anchor and managing editor of "Nightly Business Report," can be followed on Twitter@HudsonNBR.