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Boehner Budget Deal a Jedi Mind Trick, Real Cuts, Both or Neither?

I suppose the term “honest politician” is, indeed, an oxymoron.

Last Friday, we learned of a deal to reduce the 2011 budget by $38.5 Billion. While hardly the $100 Billion Conservatives were looking for, indeed expecting, and less than the $61 Billion we were told was a “pro rated” number based on the large chunk of 2011 that has already passed (going back to October, 2010), it was the best we could do, right?

Still, all things considered, with Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House, $38.5 Billion was as good a deal as we were going to get. Especially with the press ready to pounce on the “Republicans shut down Government over Abortion” headlines already making their way to the Typesetter’s desks. (OK, they don’t actually set type anymore.)

But now, in light of the fact that we were given the three days as promised before the election to look at the proposal, it looks like Speaker John Boehner is either a fool, thinks Americans are, or those most disappointed with the paltry size of the cuts are spinning this into a Boehner pulled the wool over our eyes argument.

According to the Associated Press:

A new budget estimate released Wednesday shows that the spending bill negotiated between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner would produce less than 1 percent of the $38 billion in promised savings by the end of this budget year.

The Congressional Budget Office estimate shows that compared with current spending rates the spending bill due for a House vote Thursday would cut federal outlays from non-war accounts by just $352 million through Sept. 30. About $8 billion in immediate cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid are offset by nearly equal increases in defense spending.

When war funding is factored in the legislation would actually increase total federal outlays by $3.3 billion relative to current levels.

However, the same article also says:

The CBO study confirms that the measure trims $38 billion in new spending authority relative to current levels, but many of the cuts come in slow-spending accounts like water-and-sewer grants that don’t have an immediate deficit impact.

So, the CBO report says the budget deal actually cuts $38 Billion, and doesn’t cut much at all.

I guess this is why they are called non-partisan. I would also add non-committal and nonsensical.

The problem is, Washington has used smoke and mirrors for so long they even they can’t tell what is real and what is trickery. The CBO is both confused and confusing. Their report supports both positions, that the deal cuts $38 Billion, and that it really doesn’t cut anything.

From the Conservative point of view it is most disappointing that when we are given a number that is being cut, that number is not unequivocal. We are not looking to our leaders to deliver spending cuts based on gimmicks and sleight of hand. And it is not surprising that even the CBO can’t nail this down.

Figures lie and liars figure.

So who is lying here about the size, or lack thereof, of the cuts? Boehner or those calling him a liar?

Both… and neither. It seems there is ample “credible” evidence for either position.

Wasn’t that what last November was supposed to clear up? Was Nancy Pelosi actually saying something important? Do we really have to pass this deal to find out what is in it?


Americans for Tax Reform has a good clarification here:

Due to a reports published yesterday, there is some confusion regarding the spending cuts in H.R. 1473, the Continuing Resolution, on the floor of the House of Representatives today. While some have gone so far as to call the budget deal a “fake,” the only discrepancies manifest in the attempt by some to move the goal posts in the middle of the game.

First, the nit-picking on numbers is a result of conflation between how the government budgets and how it spends money.  The entire FY 2011 budget discussion has revolved around the government’s Budget Authority (BA), the permission given to government to spend money. Thus, the House-passed H.R.1 cut $61 billion in BA for the fiscal year, while H.R. 1473 cuts almost $40 billion.

Some are arguing now that because these cuts are not reflected in outlays, or the money that actually goes out the door, they are not “real.” This is not only disingenuous, it is totally ignorant of the way the federal government budgets.

What’s more, it is an entirely nonsensical conservative position to argue that rescinding permission to spend money does not equate to spending cuts. To reform the federal budget process, small government advocates need to address the way government spends money – as the process is driven by BA, and not outlays, it is unhelpful to discuss budget-cutting in terms of outlays. It is especially malevolent to do so now in the eleventh hour of the budget fight that has revolved entirely around a discussion of BA for FY 2011

And Jeff over at “The Lid” has a good analogy:

The difference in the numbers are the difference between outlay and spending authority. Look at it this way.  Say you are a carpenter and have been given $100,000 to redo someones kitchen.  After one week’s worth of work you have allocated $75,000 to specific items but you haven’t purchased anything as of yet.  The home owner comes to you and says you can only spend $70,000.  You have cut the budget (or spending authority) by $30,000 but cut outlays by only $5,oo0.

About Tom White

Tom is a US Navy Veteran, owns an Insurance Agency and is currently an IT Manager for a Virginia Distributor. He has been published in American Thinker, currently writes for the Richmond Examiner as well as Virginia Right! Blog. Tom lives in Hanover County, Va and is involved in politics at every level and is a Recovering Republican who has finally had enough of the War on Conservatives in progress with the Leadership of the GOP on a National Level.

2 Responses to “Boehner Budget Deal a Jedi Mind Trick, Real Cuts, Both or Neither?”

  1. steveegg says:

    If outlays were less than the “budget authority”, your analogy and Jeff’s would be valid. However, it’s not even close.

    Instead, think of the outlays as the built-in and fully-authorized fund to cover the “overruns” versus the “budget authority”. By increasing the latter, with full knowledge that the entirety will be spent, they’re able to claim a “cut” while spending actually increased.

    Specifically, this year’s outlays on discretionary spending under the “deal” are expected to be $1,365 billion once all the emergency spending is added in, $18 billion higher than last year’s $1,347 billion.

    Supposedly, the “budget authority” reduction will affect future spending to the tune of $20-25 billion, which, once inflation eats away at the savings, isn’t going to cover the $18 billion in new spending this year. However, if you think Dingy Harry and President Present will accept those future cuts, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.


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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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