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The cuts would be easier to absorb if Congress and Mr. Obama had spread them across the entire budget, including entitlements.

Spending on those programs — chiefly Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — has grown from $1.59 trillion in 2008 to $2.03 trillion last year.

Democrats and Republicans acknowledge they must eventually tackle those programs, but they shy away from it because they are afraid the other party will attack them politically.

While the sequesters call for $85.3 billion in cuts from 2013 spending, the CBO says the dollars won’t work out exactly that way because of budget accounting.

Those cuts are to spending authority, while actual outlays — what the government will pay out this year — will lag.

“Not all of that money would have been spent in this fiscal year in the absence of the sequestration: Some would have been used to enter into contracts to buy goods or services to be provided and paid for next year or in subsequent years,” the CBO said Thursday.

The budget office estimated that in terms of deficit reduction, sequestration will cut $42 billion from what otherwise would be paid out in 2013.

The cuts will mean economic pain.

CBO said gross domestic product would grow about 0.6 percent faster and the economy would add 750,000 more jobs if the government continued spending without restraint — but over the longer run the added deficits would hurt the economy, the CBO says.