Our national political leaders said this day would never come.
Arbitrary, across-the-board cuts to the federal budget - defense programs, transportation projects, aid to the poor - would be just too damaging to national security, to the economy, to our ability to get around and take care of our most vulnerable. Even a Congress as divided as this one wouldn't let that happen.
Despite the passing of Friday's deadline to avoid the cuts, the sky did not fall. The impact of this incompetence will take time to arrive.
When skeptics suggest that sequestration - $84.5 billion in short-term cuts, $1.2 trillion over 10 years - is much ado about nothing, they dismiss layoff notices already sent to employees of defense contractors in Hampton Roads. They ignore the ripple effect of small businesses without customers, families without income, homes on the market or in foreclosure. They ignore the economic uncertainty that hurts everyone.
As Thomas E. Mann, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, and Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in The Washington Post: "Planning, recruiting personnel and drafting long-term contracts have become impossible in areas from cybersecurity to embassy security to medical research to homeland security, damaging not industries rife with waste, fraud and abuse but critical services."
On Friday, as House Speaker John Boehner once again rejected revenue increases to ward off cuts, Old Dominion University's Economic Forecasting Project estimated that Hampton Roads would lose 12,237 jobs. Researchers estimate that the gross regional product will decline 0.67 percent.
Sequestration, they said, would cost the region more than $2 billion in spending.
That's sobering news given the reports from December and January on nationwide consumer spending. As Bloomberg reported, "Disposable income, or the money left over after taxes, dropped 4 percent after adjusting for inflation, the biggest plunge since monthly records began in 1959. The drop also reflected the lapse of the payroll tax holiday."
Coupled with sequestration in this precarious economy is another looming budget impasse: The stopgap spending bill, which has kept the federal government operating despite Congress' inability to pass a budget, is set to expire March 27. If Republicans and Democrats can't agree on how to fund the federal government for the next six months - an unlikely feat at this point - the government could shut down.
Washington, it hardly need be said, doesn't agree on a way forward. Conservative Republicans are already saying that they will not go along with Boehner's plan to pass another temporary budget unless money to pay for the Affordable Care Act is taken out. The president and Democrats won't agree to that.
Positions are hardening. The economy is already under threat. And despite going over the latest fiscal cliff on its way to the next one, Washington hasn't moved an inch.