Sequestration primer

Michelle Singletary
Columnist February 28, 2013

It’s just a day away.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.” View Archive

Tomorrow is the day for sequestration.

And if you still aren’t sure what sequestration is, one of the better features explaining the across-the-board spending cuts comes from Niraj Chokshi of the National Journal.

So what is it, you might (or should) ask?


White House estimates of state-by-state impacts of sequestration.

Chokshi: “The idea was simple: Schedule automatic cuts for the future that were so harmful to everybody that Congress would be compelled to implement better, smarter cuts before they hit.”

Why do so many people hate it?

Chokshi: “Make no mistake; a lot of people in both parties want to cut spending. The reason so many people hate sequestration, though, is that agencies and departments don’t have any input on how it goes into effect — the spending cuts are implemented across the board.”

Who might be affected?

“President Obama is painting a dire portrait of across-the-board doom and gloom from the automatic cuts, known as sequestration, set to begin Friday,” wrote The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker. “But the sequester is really like a tornado, scattershot in its course. It would strike some communities and largely bypass others, cutting across class, politics and geography.”

As Rucker reported, “the sequester would afflict big cities and military communities — because of cuts to social programs and defense — far more than middle-class suburbs or rural areas.”

If you want to see an estimate of a state-by-state impact of the sequestration scheduled to take effect March 1, click here.

So, how real are the estimates?

“The descriptions of the post-sequester landscape coming from the Obama administration have been alarming, specific — and, in at least some cases, hyped,” Karen Tumulty and Lyndsey Layton reported today in The Post.

“Despite the reams of fact sheets the White House has been putting out, no one really knows how bad things are likely to get — including Republicans who have criticized the president for exaggerating the effects,” according to Tumulty and Layton.

If you’re still trying to understand all this watch this easy-to-follow video from The Post’s Ed O’Keefe about the planned budget cuts.

Let’s Talk Love and Money

Join me today at noon ET for my live online discussion. I can talk sequestration but would rather hear about your love and money issues.

And, to help answer your questions, my guest is Deborah Price. Her book, “The Heart of Money,” is this month’s pick for the Color of Money Book Club.

If you can’t join me live, send your questions in early or read the archives later.

Yahoo to its home office employees: Get thee to work

There is a lot of buzz about Yahoo, and it’s not about the Web site.

People are taking sides over an order from the company’s new chief executive, Marissa Mayer, that Yahoo employees may no longer work from home.

In an internal memo leaked to Kara Swisher of All Things D, employees were told: “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

“Painfully awkward as this is phrased, it means every Yahoo get to your desks stat,” wrote Swisher.

She quoted more from the memo by Jackie Reses, head of Yahoo Human Resources Department: “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”

This has become an “Oh, no she didn’t” moment for Mayer.

“The issue is an interesting and controversial one,” Swisher said. “With some certain that working at home is the wave of the future, while others considering it hurtful to productivity.”

Jena McGregor, columnist for The Washington Post’s On Leadership section, found the mandatory report-to-the-office move ironic, especially from a Web company that touts its mobile strategy.

“Such a policy could very well hurt Yahoo’s chances at recruiting the most talented young developers, engineers and executive talent,” McGregor wrote. “After all, anyone who’s ever worked in a cubicle farm knows that while open floor plans might encourage collaboration, they also encourage hours of lost productivity.”

The “demand that Yahoo employees show up for work in person each day, rather than punch a virtual clock via telecommuting, has set off a fierce debate about the value of maintaining a remote workforce and has some of the company’s remote employees crying foul,” reported David Knowles of the New York Daily News.

This week’s Color of Money Question: Do you think working from home stifles creativity? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Yahoo” in the subject line. Be sure to include your full name, city and state in the subject line.

Family Financial Fights

Money can destroy any relationship, especially when it comes to family members.

In a recent column, I wrote about a daughter who wanted to know if her aging mother should pay for her grandson’s education.

Here’s what I wrote.

Does this type of financial conflict hit home for your family? If so, send me your story to colorofmoney@washpost.com, and I’ll give you some advice. Put “Family Financial Fights” in the subject line.

Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Decline

Last week, former Democratic congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty to spending $750,000 in campaign funds for his personal use. His wife, Sandi Jackson, pleaded guilty to filing false income-tax returns.

For last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: “Was it all about the money for the Jacksons?”

“Sadly, Mr. Jackson has fallen the way that so many in power do when they believe that the rules don’t apply to them whether it be a sex scandal or fraud,” wrote J. Minzes of Locust Grove, Va. “Perhaps Mr. Jackson does have mental issues, but Mrs. Jackson likely does not, nor do their friends, all of whom must have observed the lavish spending. In fact, if Mr. Jackson, in a bipolar episode, did spend lavishly, would he not have asked himself when he was more lucid, why he spent money that was not his and attempt to return the items? There is no excuse for the behavior that brought him to this point.”

Rebecca Wolfinger of Arlington, Va., wrote: “It’s unfair that people are not paying more attention to Jesse Jackson’s mental illness when they make comments about this issue, and instead ascribing his spending to deficits in his personal character. I think the average person has little experience with people with mental illnesses and little education about what different mental illnesses involve, and thus is ill-informed to make a valid judgment about why these events occurred.”

“A Mother’s Love”

In a recent Amy Ask column, advice columnist Amy Dickinson responded to a mother worried about the lack of ambition by her son.

Last week I asked you to play advice columnist and weigh in on what you would tell the mother.

Here are some of your responses:

“I’m missing something,” wrote Gayle Lynn Falkenthal of San Diego. “A woman is worried about her 21-year-old son who is employed full-time, not in jail, not in debt and hasn’t gotten a girl pregnant. He’s taking management courses through his employer and an online college course.

The mother needs to lighten up, Falkenthal wrote. “He’s only 21. He’s doing fine. I sense some snobbery about her son working in the fast food industry. Perhaps it embarrasses her because the children of her friends are all off at big-name colleges. Mom should set up a timetable for her son to move out on his own, but otherwise I find nothing to worry about.”

“I would charge room and board,” wrote Karen J Barbahen of Tinley Park, Ill. “This will give him a sense of responsibility.”

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

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