From long delays at the nation’s airports, to huge potential layoffs of government workers, to less accurate weather forecasts, Americans may soon feel the pinch of austerity.
Despite political manoeuvring by Republicans and the White House to find a solution to the so-called “sequester”, there are no serious proposals to avoid the $1.2tn in automatic spending cuts that are expected to take effect on March 1.
What happens next is the subject of intense speculation on Capitol Hill. This is in part because the Obama administration has kept a lid on the details of how US government agencies would absorb $600bn in spending cuts during the next decade and exactly which programmes the Pentagon would slash to accomplish an extra $600bn reduction.
“Will the average person feel these cuts in a way that they will show some outrage or will they just go on and be kind of ‘ho hum’. No one knows how this plays out,” says Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia.