The Obama Jobs Sequester
Dramatic cuts in military spending are beginning to take a toll on defense jobs in battleground states such as Ohio, Virginia and Florida.


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When Barack Obama has lost even liberal Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, the White House has a problem. In Washington, that problem is known as the "sequester." In the rest of the country, it's becoming known as a jobs disaster.
More than one million lost private-sector jobs, to get down to it, as estimated by groups ranging from the National Association of Manufacturers to the Aerospace Industries Association. Military jobs are on the block, but the bulk of the pink slips will come from private businesses—from giant defense companies on down to smaller businesses that are the economic mainstays of their communities. They'll come from states crucial for President Obama's re-election: Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, and more.

And they are starting now. Federal law requires employers to provide 60 days notice of big layoffs, and since sequester hits Jan. 2, pink slips must go out by Nov. 2. While companies may not know the exact cuts, they have a good sense and are already acting. Boeing has announced it is closing a Kansas facility, in light of "defense budget reductions." Lockheed is mapping out 10,000 layoffs. EADS North America, Pratt & Whitney, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon—all have the potential to make those dismal Obama job numbers look worse.
The White House is clearly starting to worry. In a sign of panic, the Obama administration this week moved to hide the coming job losses. The Labor Department directed defense contractors to ignore the law and skip layoff notices, since sequester remains "uncertain." (Companies may well send them out anyway, since Labor can't protect them from lawsuits for failing to give due warning.)

And the president knows his ranks are getting twitchy. Congressional Democrats cracked this week, signing on to Republican legislation that gives the White House 30 days to detail the sequester cuts; they aren't willing to risk looking like White House pawns for secrecy. Republicans are ratcheting up the pressure, with ads targeting vulnerable Democrats in defense-heavy districts, town halls to highlight the sequester threat, and governors calling on Mr. Obama to step up and lead.

Democrats heading home for the August recess will hear an earful from their local defense contractors. And the party is getting equally worried about the other half of the sequester, which will strip hundreds of billions out of their own cherished domestic programs. If this environment gets hot enough, Mr. Obama could find himself alone on the stand-firm-on-sequester ship.

The biggest risk for the White House is that this is, for the moment, a runaway train. The headlines are coming, yet Congress has gone home for the summer with no plans to address the sequester before the election. Mr. Obama got his sequester, and he has refused to budge. So he may well now own it.