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April 14, 2011

Pushback: Hey, This Is How Budget Cuts Work

Well, now I don't know what to think. I have to confess the obvious -- I have no expertise at all in government/legislative budgeting or what is or what is not a cut. I have to rely on the opinions of others -- if the CBO says only $352 million of real, right-now cuts are happening, I have to believe that.

On the other hand, if people who sound like they know what they're talking about tell me this is how it works, I sort of believe that.

I don't know. I feel like I'm being spun but I'm not sure who's doing the spinning or in which direction.

The updated version of the AP story that sent me bonkers-bananas now contains a big bit of context:

At issue is a concept in budgeting that is often difficult to grasp. Appropriations bills like the pending measure give agencies the authority to spend taxpayers’ money. But such authority typically takes months or years to actually leave the federal Treasury, so cuts made in the middle of the budget year often have little immediate impact.

Well, I guess that makes sense to me.

A.J. Strata calls me ignorant (by implication; he calls everyone who bit on the story ignorant), which is a flaw I have to confess to. I am ignorant on this, alas. I guess I shouldn't even be posting about it but damn, it's news.

Like the ‘shovel ready’ nonsense squawked by the liberal media around the Democrats failed Stimulus Bill in 2009, every action by Congress takes months and years to filter its way through the bloated federal bureaucracy and its ocean of paperwork. That applies to spending increases and cuts. The ship of state is a ponderous and slow thing, making snails look like formula 1 race cars.

What you get in these CRs is nothing more than a commitment to follow through and cut spending, stop programs, close down activities in following budgets. You do not get a $38 billion dollar rebate. That is why you don’t want government by CR – the entire plan in the CR is vaporized once the period of the CR is over. All these cuts disappear on October 1, 2010 if they are not forwarded into the more binding and long term GFY budget for 2012. There you have more resilience (though any Congress can change direction at any time – thus the idea to enact 2 year budgets).

Like I said, I think I'm being spun. When I first started to read Captain Ed's post, I have to admit I thought "Oh gee, the establishment got its talking points to him."

And establishment = not to be trusted.

And on the other hand, we have the AP, which... well, let's say I trust them about as far as I can spit a minivan.

The AP itself has just about only liberals on its give-me-the-narrative-storyline rolodex, and it's not as if Obama and Reid don't have a vested interest in pushing the meme (for their base) that these concessions are trivial.

I guess I'm saying I don't know, but I'm inclined to think this is legit -- or legit by Washington standards, anyway. Even if the CR does cut $38.5 billion of what I'd call real cuts, it's still disappointingly trivial, but then, it was disappointingly trivial the day it was announced, too.

Miss80sBaby and a commenter named "Jim," I think, as well as a few others urged caution in taking AP's claims of what should or should not count as "real" cuts with a massive dose of salt, and they were right -- at the very least, they were definitely right that we shouldn't take that AP report as dispositive about the arguable semantics of a complex (and not well understood) budgeting process.

I am still guessing this mostly smoke and mirrors. But how much I don't know.

Sorry if I misled, or if I'm misleading right this very moment. I can't say "I don't really know" enough times.

Thinking About It: It does make sense that money appropriated but not yet spent would in fact be the first stuff cut, right? That would be the easy stuff, and it's not really surprising that in a negotiation the other side mostly conceded the easy stuff.

But the fact that it's easy doesn't mean it's not real.

One can say "If they're only going after easy stuff, that means they haven't committed to fighting for the hard stuff," and that's true, but then, it's not really new information. We sort of already knew this -- ObamaCare, for example, is not being defunded, and that was already known, and I have to think that that is only a moderately-hard thing.

Of course, the Democrats would shut the government down over that, but I guess that's what it has always come down to -- many/most of us here actually want a shutdown to demonstrate we're serious and to force the negotiations further to our side. And our leadership in Congress is scared like little babies over that prospect -- but again, we already knew this. We didn't just learn this yesterday from this AP report.

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posted by Ace at 12:16 PM

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