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With No ‘Superdeal,’ What’s Next?

A top budget expert talks about what cuts you might expect in programs you count on

Could transportation services for older and disabled Americans be affected?

Yes, absolutely. The one thing I would tell you is that, yes, there are programs that deal specifically with seniors, or that seniors take advantage of, that could be affected.

For example, my understanding is that seniors are some of the biggest users of national parks. So if national parks find their hours cut back or the number of rangers reduced or maintenance reduced, it probably won’t be as pleasurable for seniors who have gotten used to vacationing there or touring the country.

They’re in a battle with others for scarce dollars?

Yes, including NIH [the National Institutes for Health], research into diseases, the Centers for Disease Control. They [older Americans] may have particular needs and particular benefits from certain programs as part of a particular population, but they are also going to be affected by everything else in the budget in one form or another. Even education — they all have kids and grandkids.

There is a scenario that Congress might simply undo sequestration.

I think it is actually likely that sequestration will not go into effect as currently scheduled on Jan. 2, 2013.

Let’s take a step back. The original reason they put sequester and the supercommittee in place had nothing to do with the deficit. It had to do with getting past the debt ceiling.

It worked. They got the debt ceiling raised. They are through that. But the only way to get that done was to promise some action on the deficit.

There was never a consensus about how to reduce the deficit. So one of the pieces of the plan — the supercommittee — already has failed. I am not sure it was ever designed to succeed, but it didn’t.

The only remaining part of the plan is the sequester, and you already have people suddenly realizing, “Whoa, this actually includes spending cuts. We don’t like spending cuts.” Or, “Our constituents don’t like spending cuts.” Or, “Our contributors don’t like spending cuts.”

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