WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama warned Tuesday that “people will lose their jobs” if automatic budget cuts go into effect in 10 days, and he insisted again that Congress include higher tax revenue as part of the solution.
Speaking at the White House in front of a group of firefighters and other first responders, the president said the cuts would hit teachers, border guards, air traffic controllers and others and even allow criminals to escape federal prosecution.
“So these cuts are not smart,” the president said. “They are not fair. They will hurt our economy. They will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls. This is not an abstraction; people will lose their jobs.”
The cuts, known as the sequester and totaling $1.2 trillion over 10 years, are set to be triggered on March 1. Then, most federal departments will have to chop $85 billion from their budgets, with the military forced to absorb about $46 billion of that between March 1 and Sept. 30.
The military has warned that about 180,000 civilians may have to be furloughed, training and maintenance would have to be curtailed and new weapons postponed.
A U.S. Air Force report released last week showed 16,000 civilians could be furloughed at the Oklahoma's three bases, with a payroll impact of $125 million. A study c by George Mason University estimated that Oklahoma could lose 24,000 jobs and take a $1.6 billon hit.
Obama wants tax reform as part of a package replacing the looming cuts, but Republicans have refused to consider it.
The president said Tuesday that the Republican position “would be like Democrats saying we have to close our deficits without any spending cuts whatsoever. It's all taxes. That's not the position Democrats have taken. That's certainly not the position I've taken.”
But Republican congressional leaders on Tuesday questioned the president's commitment.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, “Replacing the president's sequester will require a plan to cut spending that will put us on the path to a budget that is balanced in 10 years,” Boehner said. “What other spending is the president willing to cut?”
Congress is in recess this week, and won't return to Washington until Monday.