The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

March 1, 2013

Workers anxious as cuts set to take effect

(Continued)

"We basically put the American dream on hold," Do said.

Preparing for a worst-case scenario, Navy officials have plans to force mandatory furloughs on roughly 186,000 civilian employees across the country. People like Huntley and Do would lose 22 paid days between April and October, or roughly 20 percent of their pay. Shipyards from coast to coast have outlined cost-cutting plans to delay huge maintenance contracts on nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.

Polling suggests that some Americans are still unaware of the looming cuts, known in Washington speak as a "sequester," but the debate is well known to federal employees and the huge network of businesses, contractors and communities that serve Navy shipyards and military bases. Virtually every nearby restaurant, grocery store or car dealer is aware of the looming cuts.

Some states are facing more pain than others. Oklahoma has five military installations. Chris Spiwak, owner of Chequers Restaurant and Pub outside Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City, said he's afraid he might have to lay off an employee or two.

"We have customers telling us that if they're furloughed, they won't be coming in as much," Spiwak said. "That's their expendable income. They'll be eating at home or bringing their lunches."

And there is widespread uncertainty in Virginia, where many of the 21,000 workers at Newport News Shipbuilding are bracing for the worst. Obama addressed shipyard workers this week about the dangers of the spending cuts.

"Everybody's nervous, worried about what's going to happen," Ronnie Hall, a 27-year-old fleet support apprentice, said before the president spoke.

The president, who has pushed for a compromise deficit package of spending cuts and new tax revenue, seems to have the upper hand among the public over the standoff. A Pew/USA Today poll this week found 49 percent of Americans would blame Republicans in Congress if Obama and Congress couldn't strike a deal. Thirty-one percent would blame Obama, 11 percent would blame both of them and 8 percent were unsure.

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