At midnight last night $85 billion in federal budget funds were sequestered by the Treasury Department.

This week at The Nation, we looked at the human costs of the austerity measures about to be imposed on our country. Instead of obsessing over a manufactured deficit crisis, I argued, we should be focusing on putting financially battered Americans back to work. It’s time to stop extortionists like Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson and the Fix the Debt campaign from holding our country’s economic future hostage.

To that end, Washington correspondent John Nichols assesses the terrifying contributions of “money power” like Peterson’s to framing, if not fully instigating, the austerity agenda. In our broken political world, where debates are being shaped by corporations, he asks whether President Obama is willing to stand up to big money in government. On Democracy Now!, he discusses the impending crisis in further detail and the billionaire austerity mongers driving it, “advocating for zombie ideas—ideas that have been slain by the voters, and frankly even by Congress, and yet they walk among us.”

Looking forward, Beltway blogger George Zornick addresses the danger that lies ahead with the White House’s alternative sequester replacement plan. While both sides play the blame game, in hopes that public support will drive the other to come to the table with concessions, he argues that there is reason to be optimistic that Obama’s plan will succeed… but that’s not necessarily a good thing. “There are no good choices here,” writes Zornick, “only less bad ones, and progressives should be wary about confusing political victory with a policy victory.”

For more analysis on the consequences of the sequester and what this means for our people, for our economy and for our future, check back in with The Nation as we continue to take a measure of Congress’s actions and the president’s priorities.