Just as computers worldwide did not crash on January 1, 2000, in the "Y2K" scare and Earth itself did not shatter on December 21, 2012, as some interpreters of the Mayan calendar predicted, March 1, 2013, will not be remembered as the day the U.S. government disintegrated.
The Obama administration and even some Republicans are warning of mass government layoffs and services collapsing when "sequestration" begins in 10 days, unless a gridlocked U.S. Congress finds a way to circumvent the start of the $85 billion in federal budget cuts.
But what actually happens on March 1?
"Nothing. Nothing happens," said a senior congressional aide who is keeping a close eye on the looming budget cuts.
While that might be somewhat of an exaggeration, the immediate impact is seen as minimal due to several safeguards, official and unofficial, that will keep the spending cuts from hitting Americans like a meat cleaver on March 1.
Senior administration officials on Tuesday had no concrete examples of what would immediately befall the country when the cuts begin. Ultimately, however, they would pare everything from military programs to space exploration between March 1 and the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Food inspections, air traffic control, law enforcement and education programs also would be among those hit.
"This moves forward on a rolling basis," White House budget office controller Danny Werfel acknowledged last week after testifying to Congress, explaining that the full force of the $85 billion in cuts would not be felt immediately. But, he cautioned: "It's very harmful as you go forward. On a seven-month time frame you're going to see the effects relatively quickly."
Senior administration officials said Republicans would be blamed for cuts that did come into force.
If allowed to run their course, the austerity measures could cost 750,000 jobs and keep weak economic growth stunted for the rest of 2013, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office warns.
These spending cuts, decided in 2011 amid a fever in Congress for deficit reduction, were meant to be so painful that they would goad Republicans and Democrats into reaching an alternative agreement on where to cut back. The cuts "will visit hardship on a whole lot of people," President Barack Obama warned on Tuesday.
And they are only the first installment in a decade's worth of required cuts totaling $1.2 trillion.
While some furlough notices will be issued to government workers, there will be few outward signs on March 1 that the cuts have been launched.