The Pessimist’s Guide to the Sequester

If you’re like us, you just can’t get enough news about the upcoming “sequester,” because you only love news stories that manage to be both mind-numbingly boring and crushingly depressing. But you might not understand what’s actually going on this week in our nation’s capital. That’s because (a) you’re not supposed to, and (b) nothing the federal government does makes any sense, at all, ever.

To help guide you through this crisis, which will surely and irrevocably change your life forever, we’ve put together a simple FAQ about the sequester, and how it might affect you (SPOILER ALERT: badly).

So what is this sequester thing, anyway?

The sequester refers to a series of sweeping federal budget cuts that will automatically go into effect on March 1. It’s taking place because the government is — to use the technical economic term — “broke-ass.” This also explains why the credit agency Standard & Poor’s recently downgraded the USA’s credit rating from “AA+” to “scrub (also known as a buster).”

Didn’t we take care of this in January with the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012?

No! That particular bill addressed the so-called “fiscal cliff,” which was a different thing altogether.

How so?

Hell if we know.

So how did we end up in this position?

We elected a bunch of idiots. That’s the short answer. The long answer: the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 provided for automatic budget cuts to happen on March 1, in order to give the government more time to come up with a compromise on the budget. The sequester was meant to be something so horrible and destructive, that the government would have no choice but to come up with a better plan in the weeks following.

That happened, right?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! No. Congress and the White House couldn’t agree on budget cuts, which means the automatic ones will happen on March 1. This development came as a shock to many political observers, who noted that this is the first time in history the American government was unable to successfully address a problem.

So who’s to blame for these automatic budget cuts?

President Obama blames the Republicans in Congress, while the Republicans in Congress blame President Obama.

Who’s right?


This is unacceptable. I believe I’ll write my member of Congress and tell him or her what I think about the government’s failure to act responsibly.

Yeah, you go do that. Here’s the response you’ll get:

“Dear constituent: Thank you very much for your letter. I have taken your concerns into consideration, and I’d like you to know that despite your good points, we fully intend to keep screwing everything up, because doing so delights us. You are, of course, welcome to run against me next year. You have a few million dollars to waste on a drawn-out, increasingly ugly campaign, right? What’s that? You don’t? Oh, well! Have fun writing more angry letters. Meanwhile, my colleagues and I will continue to keep singing and dancing in the manner indicated in the below video. Sincerely,”

Wait, how did my representative embed a YouTube clip in a letter? Is that even possible?

Not if the sequester passes! See, there are victims everywhere with this thing.

How will these budget cuts affect me?

God, it’s always about you, isn’t it? Here’s our impression of you: [in obnoxious high-pitched voice] “Me me me me me me me me me!” It’s getting really tiresome.

Sorry, I just –

No, we’re just screwing with you. The sequester will cut a great deal of money from countless government programs. (I mean, they’re not, like, literally countless. We’re just too lazy to count them.) If you’re unemployed, for example, your benefits will likely be cut.

Well, luckily, I have a job.

Yeah. Just wait a couple weeks.

I’m flying to Cleveland to visit my family pretty soon. Will the sequester affect my travel plans?

Yes. Lines at the airport will be much longer due to budget cuts affecting FAA and TSA employees. But that actually won’t matter, because — under the terms of the sequester — on March 1, all interstate highways will completely cease to exist. They’ll just disappear, and be replaced with treacherous, muddy dirt roads too narrow to even ride a horse on. But don’t worry — because of the budget cuts, your family will be forced to leave Cleveland and take up a new life as dirt-farming homesteaders in rural Nebraska.

So there’s no real reason for me to go to Cleveland.

Well, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is there, so…no.

What about my job? Will this affect my employment?

If you work for the government, then yes — you’ll likely have your hours, and, thus, wages, cut. But if you’re privately employed as a reporter assigned to the “depressing economic news” beat, you’re probably fine. At least until the sequester transforms America into a nightmarish post-apocalyptic hellscape.

Is that really going to happen?

Yes. It’s actually in the bill. I’m quoting it directly: “nightmarish post-apocalyptic hellscape.”

I see. So how should I prepare?

We suggest withdrawing all your money from the bank in a panic. While you’re in the bank, be sure to run around with your arms flailing, screaming “AAAAAAA! AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” to make sure that all other customers are as freaked out as you. You might also want to stock up on canned goods. Oh, and centerpieces! A beautiful centerpiece can turn a boring old weekday meal into a wow-day meal! Yeah, don’t forget the centerpieces. And as far as the zombies go –

Wait. Zombies?

Yes. Because funding to government cemeteries will be cut, economists expect as many as 100,000 zombies to emerge from their graves on the night of March 1, eating the brains of everyone they encounter. You’re going to want to make sure you have some shotguns and baseball bats for home defense. But more importantly, start practicing one-liners, so if you do have to kill a zombie, you’ll have something cool to say while doing it. Like, I don’t know, if you use a big knife to cut off a zombie’s head, you can say something like “It’s knife to meet you.” That kind of thing.

So basically you’re saying that we’re all screwed, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

That’s exactly what we’re saying. But don’t worry about it too much. The American government, when faced with horrible, seemingly insurmountable problems, has always found a way to replace them with even horribler, seemingly insurmountabler problems. We’re sure it’ll work out that way this time, too.

So…I don’t have to worry about the zombies?

Not as long as you have that shotgun.


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