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Phantom Budget Cuts - No Deal!   April 12th, 2011
Either GOP leadership is being rolled, or they're rolling us       


More observations...

While I continue to believe that the current budget battle isn't the most important fight, it's looking like there was virtually no fight at all. And that's disgusting and unacceptable.

The historic $38 billion in budget cuts resulting from at-times hostile bargaining between Congress and the Obama White House were accomplished in large part by pruning money left over from previous years, using accounting sleight of hand and going after programs President Barack Obama had targeted anyway.

As a result of that sleight of hand, Obama was able to reverse many of the cuts passed by House Republicans in February when the chamber approved a bill slashing this year's budget by more than $60 billion. In doing so, the White House protected favorites like the Head Start early learning program, while maintaining the maximum Pell grant of $5,550 and funding for Obama's "Race to the Top" initiative that provides grants to better-performing schools. Food aid to the poor was preserved, as were housing subsidies.

Instead, the cuts that actually will make it into law are far tamer, including cuts to earmarks, unspent census money, leftover federal construction funding, and $2.5 billion from the most recent renewal of highway programs that can't be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation. Another $3.5 billion comes from unused bonus money for states that enroll more uninsured children in a program providing health care to children of lower-income families.

Almost half of the savings in the budget deal, some $17.8 billion, don't involve cuts to agency operating accounts that critics of spending prefer to target. They involve reductions in what can be spent on so-called mandatory programs whose budgets run mostly on autopilot. Often the amount actually spent isn't affected. Such cuts officially count as savings that then can be used to pay for spending elsewhere. They often have little real impact in terms of cutting the deficit.

In other words, as much as $17.8 billion of the "cuts" are eliminating spending that wouldn't have occurred anyway!

This round of budget cuts isn't going to make a difference in the long-run, but it does look like Republicans got rolled--or Congress is rolling the public. Either way it's an insult. Minimal cuts were annoying enough--to find out that billions were "phantom" cuts or accounting tricks is just salt in the wound.

This budget deal should be rejected and they should come back with some real cuts. In return for the insult, the cuts should be no less than the $61 billion that was originally promised. And I'd personally like to see more than that.

I've already written my congressman and asked him to vote "no" (even though his website carries a statement saying he'll be voting "yes").

Update 4/12/2011: Turns out that part of the budget agreement was to axe four of Obama's czars. Unfortunately, those czars were already gone!

House Republicans won a symbolic victory by dethroning four White House "czars" under the contentious federal spending agreement rolled out early Tuesday morning, but symbolism may be all they got... The catch: At least three of those four czars have already moved out of the czar jobs.

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