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Finger-pointing continues as automatic US budget cuts kick in

中国日报网 2013-03-04 11:01

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US President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans have refused to concede any share of the blame for failing to stave off automatic spending cuts that will slash $85 billion in federal spending over nearly seven months.

The still-fragile US economy braced itself on Saturday for the gradual but potentially grave impact of the across-the-board cuts, which took effect on Friday night at the stroke of Obama's pen. Hours earlier, he and congressional leaders emerged from a White House meeting no closer to an agreement.

Even as Democrats and Republicans pledged a renewed effort to retroactively undo the spending cuts, both parties said the blame rests squarely on the other for any damage the cuts might inflict. There were no indications that either side was wavering from entrenched positions that for weeks have prevented progress on a deal to find a way out: Republicans refusing any deal with more tax revenue, and Democrats snubbing any deal without it.

The president said the cuts will cause "a ripple effect across the economy" that will worsen the longer they stay in place, eventually costing more than 750,000 jobs and disrupting the lives of middle-class families.

Obama and the Republicans have been fighting over federal spending since the opposition Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections. The budget cuts were designed in 2011 to be so ruthless that both sides would be forced to find a better deal, but they haven't, despite two years to find a compromise.

The $85 billion in cuts apply to the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year, which ends on Sept 30. But without a deal, they will continue slashing government spending by about $1 trillion more over a 10-year period.

The economic effects of the spending cuts may take time to kick in, but political blowback has already begun and is hitting Obama as well as congressional Republicans.

While most polls show voters blame Republicans primarily for the fiscal mess, Obama could see himself associated with the worst effects of sequestration like the looming furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal workers. He signed an order on Friday night US time that started putting the cuts into effect.

At the heart of Washington's persistent fiscal showdowns is disagreement over how to slash the budget deficit and the $16 trillion national debt, bloated over the years by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the government stimulus for the ailing economy.

Questions:

1. How much money will the automatic spending cuts slash?

2. Why were the budget cuts designed to be so ruthless in 2011?

3. What is the value of the national debt?

Answers:

1. $85 bill

2. So that both sides would be forced to find a better deal

3. $16 trillion.

(中国日报网英语点津 Julie 编辑)

About the broadcaster:

Emily Cheng is an editor at China Daily. She was born in Sydney, Australia and graduated from the University of Sydney with a degree in Media, English Literature and Politics. She has worked in the media industry since starting university and this is the third time she has settled abroad - she interned with a magazine in Hong Kong 2007 and studied at the University of Leeds in 2009.

 

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