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WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ President Barack Obama and his officials are doing their best to drum up public concern over the shock wave of spending cuts that could strike the government in just days. So it's a good time to be alert for sky-is-falling hype.
Administration officials are coming forward with a grim compendium of jobs to be lost, services to be denied or delayed, military defenses to be let down and important operations to be disrupted. Obama's new chief of staff, Denis McDonough, spoke of a "devastating list of horribles."
For most Americans, though, it's far from certain they will have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day if the budget-shredder known as the sequester comes to pass. Maybe they will, if the impasse drags on for months.
For now, there's a whiff of the familiar in all the foreboding, harking back to the mid-1990s partial government shutdown, when officials said old people would go hungry, illegal immigrants would have the run of the of the land and veterans would go without meds. It didn't happen.
For this episode, provisions are in place to preserve the most crucial services â¿¿ and benefit checks. Furloughs of federal workers are at least a month away, breathing room for a political settlement if the will to achieve one is found. Many government contractors would continue to be paid with money previously approved.
But while the government prepares to make the best of a tough situation, it's putting the worst possible face on it all.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan says teacher layoffs have already begun, but he has not backed up that claim and school administrators say no pink slips are expected before May, for the next school year, if the budget crisis persists.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the money crunch means the national parks system will be hit with a "perfect storm."