Here Comes The Sequester, And Another 1% Cut To 2013 GDP

Tyler Durden's picture


Several days ago we showed an analysis that indicated that the elimination of the payroll tax cut would likely eat into 1.5% of 2013 US GDP and subtract as much as 3.5% of 2013 growth based on one submodel - a deduction to overall US growth which already puts US GDP forecasts in borderline recession territory. We also added the caveat that "no estimates take into account spending cuts, which may happen, and which will serve as a double whammy to consumption in addition to already enacted tax hikes." Today, we present the flip side to the GDP calculation, namely what may and likely will happen to US growth once the pound of flesh is extracted by the GOP in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, which will eventually be raised even if it means a shutdown in the government for an indefinite period of time.

The reason: the sequester, whose implementation most thought would be delayed until well into 2014, is now starting to loom as the logical counterpoint to the debt ceiling compromise. And here comes Goldman with the first shot across the bow on what this quid pro quo would likely mean for US GDP: "Allowing the sequester to hit would, in our view, have greater implications for growth than a short-lived government shutdown, but would not be as severe as a failure to raise the debt limit. Although Republicans in Congress generally support replacing the defense portion of the sequester with cuts in other areas, there is much less Republican support for delaying them without offsetting the increased spending that would result."

And in bottom line terms: "Sequestration would reduce the level of spending authority by $85bn in fiscal year (FY) 2013 and $109bn for subsequent fiscal years through 2021. The actual effect on spending in calendar 2013 would be smaller--around $53bn, or 0.3% of GDP--since reductions in spending authority reduce actual spending with a lag. The reduction in spending would occur fairly quickly; the change would be concentrated in Q2 and particularly Q3 and could weigh on growth by 0.5pp to 1.0pp."

In other words: payroll tax eliminates some 1.5% of 2013 GDP growth; on the other side the sequester cuts another 1%: that's a total of 2.5%. So: is the US now almost certainly looking at a recession when all the fiscal components to "growth" are eliminated? And what will the Fed do when it is already easing on "full blast" just to keep US growth barely above 0%?

Of course, don't tell the market, whose only illogical response to what is an increasingly ugly fundamanetal picture would be to... sell vol, and push the ES to new 5 year highs.

Full note from Goldman:

Spending Cuts Under the Sequester: A Question of When, Not If

  • Failure to raise the debt ceiling would have severe economic consequences, but for this reason Congress seems likely to increase it. By contrast, a temporary government shutdown would have a limited effect on growth if it were resolved quickly, and this lack of severe consequences makes it more likely to occur. In the middle of these two extremes lie the spending cuts under sequestration--allowing them to take effect in full could impose a meaningful drag on growth, but the effect might not be severe enough to dissuade Congress from allowing it to occur.
  • Our forecast assumes that $15bn in sequestration-related spending cuts will take effect in 2013, with the remainder implemented in 2014 and 2015. But while we have been assuming that the sequester will be allowed to take effect eventually, that moment may come sooner than we had expected, for two reasons: (1) many members of Congress dislike the sequester, but reversing it amounts to a spending increase, which would be politically difficult; and (2) the sequester takes effect March 1, and Congress may not have resolved the two other fiscal issues by that point.
  • While there is a growing risk that some of these cuts are allowed to take effect, we suspect that Congress will reverse at least some of them, potentially replacing them with phased-in savings elsewhere in the budget. The Dept. of Defense has already announced that it will have to undertake several disruptive steps, including employee furloughs, if the cut is implemented on schedule. Delaying it until the start of the coming fiscal year would avoid most of this disruption, but would not have that significant an effect on the 10-year budget projections.

Once again, the White House and congressional Republicans find themselves with seemingly irreconcilable differences on key fiscal issues. Speaker Boehner has insisted that an increase in the debt limit must be matched with spending cuts of an equal amount (when measured over ten years), while President Obama reiterated today that he will not negotiate on any other policy changes in return for the increase. Settling this disagreement will be harder than it was in 2011, when the debt limit was increased by $2.1 trillion in return for $2.1 trillion in spending cuts over ten years. Further budget savings would need to come mainly from entitlement programs or tax increases, which are much more controversial.

President Obama is unlikely to accept entitlement cuts without a second tax increase. Republicans are therefore looking for a way to convince the administration that agreeing to entitlement cuts will be better than what would occur if no agreement is reached. To be successful, the mechanism Republicans use to force the issue must have severe enough consequences that the White House will want to reach an agreement instead, but not so severe that no one believes it could be allowed to happen. They have three options to choose from:

Debt limit - severe effects but low likelihood: The Treasury has indicated it expects to exhaust its borrowing capacity "between mid-February and early March," similar to our previous projection of March 1. There is little risk to Treasury's ability to make scheduled interest or principal payments, in our view, given their small size relative to Treasury's overall cash flows. But there still would be two important consequences: first, the inability to borrow would force the Treasury to immediately eliminate the budget deficit, leading to a delay in payments to federal employees, federal contractors, and beneficiaries of entitlement programs, among others; second, rating agencies might downgrade the US rating following a failure to raise the limit in a timely manner. Even Speaker Boehner has described potential failure to raise the debt limit as a "financial disaster." The upshot is that since leaders of both parties accept the need to raise it and recognize the negative consequences of a failure to do so, opposing an increase in the debt limit is no longer as credible a threat as it was in 2011.

A government shutdown -- modest effects but increasingly likely: Congress opted in September 2012 to extend spending authority for six months, until March 27, 2013. This has been done frequently in recent years when lawmakers cannot agree on full-year spending levels. If spending authority is not extended further, the Obama administration will lose its authority to carry out activities funded by appropriations and will be forced to shut down non-essential government operations. This is not as bad as it sounds, for a few reasons: first, only 40% of federal spending relies on congressional appropriations; the remainder is unaffected by a failure to extend spending authority. Second, about two-thirds of that 40% is deemed "essential" and continues even without a renewal of spending authority. This includes defense functions and services "essential to protect life and property." The upshot is that a one-week shutdown of these activities would reduce federal spending by $8bn to $12bn (annualized). Since a shutdown that begins on March 27 would straddle the end of Q1 and the start of Q2, the effect on quarterly growth is hard to estimate but might be around 0.1pp in each quarter. (For more discussion of the effects of a government shutdown, see our April 8, 2011 US Economics Analyst).

Sequester -- meaningful effects and quite possible: Allowing the sequester to hit would, in our view, have greater implications for growth than a short-lived government shutdown, but would not be as severe as a failure to raise the debt limit. Although Republicans in Congress generally support replacing the defense portion of the sequester with cuts in other areas, there is much less Republican support for delaying them without offsetting the increased spending that would result.

Among these three options, the sequester may present the greatest risk to growth in 2013 because it might actually happen--unlike a debt-limit induced default which is very unlikely--and because it would have longer lasting effects, unlike a government shutdown, which would be reversed quickly.

Sequestration would reduce the level of spending authority by $85bn in fiscal year (FY) 2013 and $109bn for subsequent fiscal years through 2021. The actual effect on spending in calendar 2013 would be smaller--around $53bn, or 0.3% of GDP--since reductions in spending authority reduce actual spending with a lag. The reduction in spending would occur fairly quickly; the change would be concentrated in Q2 and particularly Q3 and could weigh on growth by 0.5pp to 1.0pp.

The sequester would weigh on growth mid-year

Unlike the other two issues noted above, the sequester is not a "cliff." There would be few spending cuts implemented in the days immediately following March 1 if Congress allows the sequester to take effect on schedule. It would probably take federal agencies several weeks to put the cuts into effect. Moreover, the law provides federal agencies 120 days to take "administrative regulations or similar actions implementing sequestration." So it is possible for Congress to allow the sequester to be implemented on schedule, but to "turn off" the sequester a few weeks later without a significant effect on spending.

If the sequester were fully implemented, it would have very disruptive effects in some areas of the budget, particularly defense. In order to fulfill the requirements of the sequester, the Department of Defense (DoD) would need to reduce spending authority by around 9% for FY2013. The administration would have little flexibility in how to implement this cut, so every program, project, and account would need to be cut by the same amount. This would mean, for example, furloughing most civilian DoD employees for a full month before the end of the fiscal year, and cutting basic activities like healthcare for active-duty military and aircraft maintenance. On the non-defense side, the cuts would be similarly disruptive though the political effects might not be as salient.

Sequestration would be much more disruptive in 2013 than it would be in 2014 and beyond. The budget agreement that Congress reached in the summer of 2011 cut spending through two mechanisms: (1) annual caps on congressional appropriations and (2) the sequester, which cuts the level of spending authority by $109bn below the cap just mentioned. Since the 2011 law called for sequestration to take effect January 1, 2013--three months into the fiscal year--it was structured as an across the board cut to the spending level already in place. For 2014 and beyond, the sequester simply lowers the cap mentioned earlier by an additional $109 billion. That means that instead of across the board cuts, for FY 2014 and beyond Congress can appropriate funds as it sees fit as long as it stays below the caps. Delaying the sequester to the start of the coming fiscal year would not simply "kick the can" on fiscal restraint but it would also allow a less disruptive and more efficient cut to be implemented.

However, the cost of a delay could be a problem. Delaying the entire sequester until the next fiscal year starts (October 1, 2013) would increase projected spending over the next ten years by $85bn. Finding savings elsewhere in the budget to offset that increase in spending would be difficult, particularly if Republicans insist that the new deficit reduction measures used to replace the sequester should come entirely from domestic spending like entitlement programs. If the budget effects of a delay become prohibitive, Congress might opt to reduce but not eliminate the sequester for FY2013.

Even if Congress does manage to delay the onset of the sequester past March 1, the cuts are likely to be implemented eventually. As noted above, our forecast assumes that $15bn of the cuts will be implemented in 2013 (versus $53bn if Congress takes no further action) with the remainder implemented in 2014. This is based on the premise that although neither party likes the sequester, the entitlement spending cuts and tax increases that would be necessary to replace the sequester over the longer term are even less popular.

Ultimately, it is only a matter of time before the sequester will be implemented. While we have assumed that Congress would delay part of the sequester until 2014, when it could be implemented with much less disruption to the military and other federal activities, it is very possible that some or most of it could take effect earlier than expected, in 2013.

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Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:54 | 3157665 maxmad
maxmad's picture

Hey I asked for only a little off the top!

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:05 | 3157673 Zer0head
Zer0head's picture

"Once again, the White House and congressional Republicans find themselves with seemingly irreconcilable differences on key fiscal issues."


Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:13 | 3157725 spastic_colon
spastic_colon's picture

good luck if you think that the ES won't trade sideways and the VIX will trickle up over the next few weeks until the debt ceiling BS is resolved, this will give them room to push VIX lower and trade to ES 1500 while they pat their backs and claim victory once again that we are saved!

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:21 | 3157743 knukles
knukles's picture

Sequesrter Away!

Stop the Spending!

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:23 | 3157747 Buckaroo Banzai
Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Sequester? I barely know her!

Sun, 01/27/2013 - 19:02 | 3189625 Muppet Pimp
Muppet Pimp's picture

the more debt .gov issues, the more the bankstas make, so in summation

"issue some more debt immediately or we will make you fuckers pay"


Who are the major beneficiarys of major issuance of .gov debt? (It is not the people)

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:23 | 3157748 Buckaroo Banzai
Buckaroo Banzai's picture


Wed, 01/16/2013 - 14:03 | 3158491 Snakeeyes
Snakeeyes's picture

Obama only wants to cut military and expand spending everywhere else. RINOs Boehner and McConnell don't want to cut military spending. Stymied. But the GDP growth is already slow in the US and Europe.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:55 | 3157667 hedgeless_horseman
hedgeless_horseman's picture



On Yahoo's front page...

Even the idiots are starting to get it!

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:58 | 3157682 Zer0head
Zer0head's picture

sadly the idiots are in the majority and they are on Facebook not yahoo

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:53 | 3157691 hedgeless_horseman
hedgeless_horseman's picture



Sadly, the killing of innocents by psycho-patsies in "Gun Free" zones will continue until either the Yahoo poll numbers improve, or the unconstitutionality of gun free zones is upheld.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 17:16 | 3159592 hedgeless_horseman
hedgeless_horseman's picture



They have changed the poll, but still not looking good for the Blue Team.  Stay away from those gun free zones!

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:27 | 3157764 scatterbrains
scatterbrains's picture

That's a skewed poll.  If you added the gay abortions issue then that debt number would fall to like 20%

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:55 | 3157670 Al Huxley
Al Huxley's picture

Great, I'm glad we've already got the sequel to the drama of 'Fiscal Cliff' lined up.  I hope 'Sequester' is as full of excitement, drama, cliff-hangers and last minute, edge-of-your-seat, will they solve it in time? moments as 'Fiscal Cliff' was!

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:56 | 3157674 max2205
max2205's picture

must push to 1550.....

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:56 | 3157676 Stoploss
Stoploss's picture

Recession regardless. Starve the bastards out.

I spend no money outside of necessary utilities, and cut those to the bone.

Recession by omission of spending by the gen public, is a phenomenon Ben is quite unfamiliar with i would venture to say.

So, what, are the fascist going to force us to spend now??

I cant wait!!

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:28 | 3157770 optimator
optimator's picture

How about a "Bedroom Tax", the only thing not currently taxed.  I'd like to invest in the company that will make the meters to measure it.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:31 | 3157780 CPL
CPL's picture

Sad thing is when their quarterlies come up a little short.


<rimshot!>  Be sure to tip your waitress.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:57 | 3157680 QQQBall
QQQBall's picture

$15B in 2013 - they blew $60B in extraordinary spending yesterday

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:59 | 3157690 Zer0head
Zer0head's picture


a crock of goldman shit this article

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:12 | 3157723 Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance's picture

But.......but.........but the $60B Hurricane Sandy pork barrel 'relief' appropriation was a onetime 'extraordinary' expense so it really really doesn't count........right?

Pretty please?

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:24 | 3157755 knukles
knukles's picture

OK, Cog.  Just this one time, now.
Oh and Mrs. Cog can go out on a spree for a week or two because she'd been so good.

If I showed Mrs K any of the gold we don't own she'd go spend it too. 
Talk about paper gold!

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:58 | 3157681 Winston of Oceania
Winston of Oceania's picture

Since when was a recession the end of the world? What's that? You say since the idiotic leveraging of the last 30 years? Got it! Sucks for THEM and THEM only!

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:04 | 3157683 AccreditedEYE
AccreditedEYE's picture

Translation: Less govt spending will directly effect our annual bonus payments and we highly advise you keep spending or the world WILL END. Love + Hugs, The Squid aka Goldman Sachs

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 11:59 | 3157684 lolmao500
lolmao500's picture

You know what's funny? In an hour Obama is gonna start a civil war with his gun control Executive orders bullshit.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:14 | 3157733 inevitablecollapse
inevitablecollapse's picture

i don't think he's going to tell everyone that outright, rather more behind the scenes 'oh by the way' goings on.  of course, i could be completely wrong and they go 'full retard' on national television in front of approximately 125,000 viewers

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:25 | 3157741 Dr. Engali
Dr. Engali's picture

He's gone full retard every time he's been on tv. Why would he stop now? I agree though..most of it is going to be behind the scenes..kind of like what's going on with Walmart and other large corps. It wouldn't surprise me if he had them buy up all the ammo and store it in some warehouse in China.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:49 | 3157849 Chief KnocAHoma
Chief KnocAHoma's picture

Classic Obama misdirection. Look over here we need to protect children.

Nevermind we are spending their future away, we need to protect them from those NRA nutts and gold horders.

And certainly don't look at Benghazi, or Pakistan, or the fact that I don't do budgets, or the fact that I am special and deserve armed protectors while you peons don't.

Look over here damnit.... we have to protect children I said!!!!

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:26 | 3157761 optimator
optimator's picture

Nothing happens till the supermarket shelves are empty.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:02 | 3157698 Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Just another excuse for the Fed to continue to man the pumps.

<Man overboard.>

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:03 | 3157700 q99x2
q99x2's picture

Let's start a new country and kick these bastards over to to Brussels. They lie lie lie. And ruin TV and aren't decent people, or evolved, or sensible, or anything except greedy pigs. Brussels is pig pen heaven. They'd be happy there.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:05 | 3157703 buzzsaw99
buzzsaw99's picture

what a waste of squid ink

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:13 | 3157724 Dr. Engali
Dr. Engali's picture

What's ink to the squid? They just had a huge quarter, and if they run out they can always call on the Bernank to levereage buyout some of his....which is actually theirs since they own the fed.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:18 | 3157738 AccreditedEYE
AccreditedEYE's picture

They sell naked puts on ink by the super-tanker load. lol

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 13:06 | 3157963 ItchyBeard
ItchyBeard's picture

No wonder HP is going down the shitter. Benny B is running his printers in squid ink instead of buying refills from HP at rip-off prices.

Fuck you Bernanke!

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:10 | 3157714 Flakmeister
Flakmeister's picture

The jig is up, the fiscal situation is beyond fixing...

The Repubs just have to lie back and try to make the best out of a bad situation... We all know that they have been enjoying it up to now, they just got to learn to play the part...

In other words, a slow crash is much better than a fast one and I don't care how much gold and guns you have...

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:23 | 3157745 Dr. Engali
Dr. Engali's picture

The repukes and the demoncrats have been playing their parts for years. The only best of a bad situation they are trying to make the best of is for themselves.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:11 | 3157715 linrom
linrom's picture

Several days ago we showed an analysis that indicated that the elimination of the payroll tax cut would likely eat into 1.5% of 2013 US GDP


So it follows that if business payed its employees just 4% more, US GDP would explode to the upside by accretive growth rate of 3%.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:11 | 3157719 yogibear
yogibear's picture

Rally Time! Bubble Bernanke and the Fed, tell your member banks to buy more stocks.


Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:23 | 3157752 optimator
optimator's picture

Ben Shalom & Friends are on it.  Just wire it to the banks, no need to even print it.  May as well take it while it lasts, and as they found out in Weimar Germany, it doesn't last forever.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:14 | 3157730 tooriskytoinvest
tooriskytoinvest's picture

Stock Market May Soon Be Headed Lower Due To ‘Lack of Fear’ And Increasing Political Risk


Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:22 | 3157746 SheepDog-One
SheepDog-One's picture

Nevermind all that, DOW comfortably back over the new 'psychological barrier 13,500' apparently, so all is well. Just go get an extra job or 2....suck it up Mr and Mrs America we need YOU to bail us banks out! Now stop slacking off and get to work.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:23 | 3157751 Caracalla
Caracalla's picture

I feel like an idiot doing it, but this morning I cashed my small profit in TLT and bought the dip.  I loaded up on coffee ("JO") and expect to make a killing with the incoming inflation....

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:23 | 3157753 TrustWho
TrustWho's picture

"Hyperinflation requires a preceding period of deflation or deflation scare to initiate an uncontrolled period of economic chaos."

I listened to Eric Rosengren today tell the world about the great success of Qualitative Easing. I have been following the Japanese Central Bank activities driven by the Abe government who are just extending the policy of US Federal Reserve in their country. The blurring of fiscal and monetary policy scares me to death.

The Fed should pick some construction companies and pay for rebuilding America's infrastructure. At least you would be given money to the common man and the money would flow more efficiently to society than your program that bails out the banks who played a significant role in creating this financial mess. Actually, we could just eliminate Congress and the Executive branch and be more efficient with our PhD's running the county, at least until you lose the faith and trust of the people.

Problem solved by the great institution....THE FED

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:54 | 3157878 Chief KnocAHoma
Chief KnocAHoma's picture

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain... I am the Great and Powerful Ben.

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 13:09 | 3157995 TrustWho
TrustWho's picture

I never realized, until recently, the philosophical depth of "The Wizard of Oz". Now, all human institutions' foundations are built on this philosophy as the Truth seems beyond human capacity. 

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:26 | 3157759 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

With the first paycheck of the year the middle class is noticing that their taxes DID go up.

That will affect buying decisions and GDP almost immediately (Q1 at the least, and compounding as the year goes on).

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:29 | 3157766 SheepDog-One
SheepDog-One's picture

I saw it in real life yesterday, everyone I knew was running saying 'Why the hell is my paycheck short WTF is this shit I'm $120 short!! Call the home office they messed up!!' And they all voted for ObaMao...I just smiled and said 'I told you so'.

And so it begins...

Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:36 | 3157800 Mi Naem
Mi Naem's picture

"ObaMao" - I love it. 

You know, it sounds like what the Viet Cong were shouting in "The Deer Hunter" when they were impatient with the American's hesitancy to pick up the revolver, put it to their heads, and pull the trigger.  Kinda like now. 

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