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April 12, 2011

Suckers: We Were Fooled; Budget Barely Cuts Anything

A week ago, I noted that John Boehner rejected what he called Democratic "smoke and mirrors" on the budget. "Cuts" that weren't really cuts at all, just something to present to the public as "cuts."

Win-win: You get the political benefit of cutting and you get the political benefit of not cutting, because you really didn't cut.

I urged Boehner to expose these tricks so that the public could understand what a real cut was and what a real cut wasn't. So we could not be deceived by the Democrats, or, as it really would wind up happening: So we could not be deceived by Republicans who need to show their constituents cuts but also don't really want to make those cuts.

I asked him to declare "I will not perpetrate a fraud on the American public." I'd hoped such a vow would bind him from doing just that.

I assumed, wrongly, that having taken a position against "smoke and mirrors," he would not foist upon the public a deal containing almost nothing but that.

Once again, I thought well of a Republican and am burned because of it.

Well, according to an analysis, our "$38.5 billion in cuts" is actually about $15 billion in cuts as what is counted as "cuts" is a large pile of stuff that wasn't going to be spent anyway or which (as is the case with earmarks) is about what money is spent on, not how much of it, in total, is being spent.

The specifics show that finding nearly $40 billion in cuts during the 2011 fiscal year required clever accounting and, for the White House, a willingness to concede on rhetoric to find gains on substance.

For example, the final cuts in the deal are advertised as $38.5 billion less than was appropriated in 2010, but after removing rescissions, cuts to reserve funds and reductions in mandatory spending programs, discretionary spending will be reduced only by $14.7 billion.

As Rand Paul said -- and I didn't think he was right when I first heard this, but he was, in fact right -- we'll actually spend more in 2011 then in 2010.

This is a "cut"? In what sense?

This is absolutely horrible. You know what we've got? Another stimulus, but a covert one.

And apparently it's a stimulus that's baked in the cake and will keep getting spent year after year forever.

Boehner-Obama Deal Leaves FY11 Spending $773B Above FY08 Level—About as Big an Increase as Obama’s Stimulus

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

By Terence P. Jeffrey

(CNSNews.com) - The budget deal cut late Friday by President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio) will allow $3.7555 trillion in federal spending in this fiscal year.

That is $773 billion more than federal spending was in fiscal year 2008--the fiscal year before Congress enacted a bailout for the banking industry requested by President George W. Bush and a $787-billion economic stimulus law request by President Barack Obama.

That $773 billion in spending that the federal government will do this year over and above the federal spending level of 2008 equals 98 percent of the $787 billion stimulus signed by President Obama in February 2000—on the premise that it was a one-time, short-term spending escalation needed to pump up the economy in a time of recession.

My heart is really leaving me on this. I am finding it increasingly hard to care who "wins" and who "loses." If the system is rigged against what I actually want politically, then there is no point in my engaging with the system at all.


John Podhoretz finds the cuts may even be lower than that $14 billion and change...

The total amount actually cut appears to be somewhere between $8 and $14 billion.

And he expects there might be a populist revolt against the sham cuts -- which puts us all in a difficult spot, because Boehner and Co. have already sold this as "mission accomplished" and now we will get blamed for undoing a deal already struck.

But what choice do we have?

Could the Deal Fall Apart? My God I hope so. Several conservative Senators could abandon it, for example, and in the House, the GOP only has a 24 seat cushion. If the Tea Party representatives abandon the deal, can Boehner crib together a lump-party of GOP establishment appropriators and enough liberals to pass it?

The 15 Blue Dogs will vote for the deal, because then they can pretend to be conservative budget-cutters in purple and red districts, so Boehner will have those 15.

Extra Special Bonus: "The budget baseline," the starting baseline for the next year's funding, was moved up in this deal, above what it was in 2011, making it easier for Democrats (and Republicans!) to spend more in 2012.

You F'd Up, You Trusted Us:

Morons and moronettes, I'll be brief. The issue here is not whether we broke a few promises, or took a few liberties with your money - we did. But you can't hold a whole party responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole two-party system? And if the whole two-party system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our political institutions in general? I put it to you - isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!

Thanks to Eric "Otter" Cantor.

More Details: At CBSNews.

Many of the cuts appear to have been cuts in name only, because they came from programs that had unspent funds.

For example, $1.7 billion left over from the 2010 census; $3.5 billion in unused children's health insurance funds; $2.2 billion in subsidies for health insurance co-ops (that's something the president's new health care law is going to fund anyway); and $2.5 billion from highway programs that can't be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation.

About $10 billion of the cuts comes from targeting appropriations accounts previously used by lawmakers for so-called earmarks - pet projects like highways, water projects, community development grants and new equipment for police and fire departments. Republicans had already engineered a ban on earmarks when taking back the House this year.

Republicans also claimed $5 billion in savings by capping payments from a fund awarding compensation to crime victims. Under an arcane bookkeeping rule -- used for years by appropriators -- placing a cap on spending from the Justice Department crime victims fund allows lawmakers to claim the entire contents of the fund as "budget savings." The savings are awarded year after year.

Let's talk about earmarks first -- it has long been known (often written on the internet) that earmarks don't actually spend new money, at least not in the year they're promulgated. An earmark is not an appropriation. It is a directive to a department or agency to spend money in its general slush-fund, money that was already appropriated, on a specific measure.

Now, the conservative internet has campaigned against earmarks for two reasons: They're often a vehicle for corruption and once something gets funded once, it tends to get funded forever. So an earmark, while not actually spending new money in the year it's introduced, may wind up spending new money down the road.

But again: An earmark does not actually spend new money. It directs an agency to spent money already in its slush-fund kitty.

So cancelling earmarks is not actually cutting the budget. All it is is cutting the restrictions on an agency as to how to spend the money it has.

The $10 billion in canceled earmarks should not be considered "cuts." No less money is being spent because of such cancellations. The agency is just freer to spend as it (or the President) directs.

And this one?

Republicans also claimed $5 billion in savings by capping payments from a fund awarding compensation to crime victims. Under an arcane bookkeeping rule -- used for years by appropriators -- placing a cap on spending from the Justice Department crime victims fund allows lawmakers to claim the entire contents of the fund as "budget savings."

Just by putting a cap on the $5 billion allows you to claim the $5 billion you're spending isn't being spent? That is plainly an accounting trick.

So, so far, we have $15 billion in "cuts" which are not cuts no matter who you are.


Another Bonus: Here's an awesome cut from that CBS article:

$1.5 billion from the president's new $8 billion initiative to spur high-speed rail development.

So, um, the president proposed $8 billion to satisfy Joe Biden's sexual obsession with playing Conductor Man and we held that line... to just $6.5 billion in new spending on this dodgy item.







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