How big are the cuts and what’s exempt?
Over a decade, the cuts total about $1 trillion, half from defense and half from domestic programs. There’s an additional $200 billion or so in lower government interest payments. For this budget year, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the cuts are $42.7 billion from defense (8 percent) and $42.7 billion from domestic programs (5 percent). Because the cuts are backloaded into the last seven months of the budget year, they feel more like a 13 percent cut to the Pentagon and 9 percent cut to domestic agencies during that period. And these are real cuts from agency budgets that have been essentially frozen at last year’s levels.
The majority of the federal budget is in fact walled off from the cuts. Social Security and veterans’ programs are exempt, and cuts to Medicare are generally limited to a 2 percent, $10 billion reduction in payments to hospitals and doctors. Most programs that help the poor, like Medicaid, food stamps, subsidized school lunches, Pell Grants and supplemental security income payments are also exempt.