Budget Cuts Disappear in a Cloud of Smoke

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So, um, about that $38 billion budget cut:

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.

So now we’re down to $8 billion in actual cuts, all of it offset by increases to the Pentagon budget. But what about future years? Surely these savings will start to add up down the road? Not really:

In response to multiple requests for estimates of the effects of post-2011 outlays from H.R. 1473, CBO has developed additional information about the budgetary impact of H.R. 1473 in years beyond 2011.

….CBO estimates that enactment of H.R. 1473 would produce federal outlays over the 2011-2021 period that are between $20 billion and $25 billion lower than the amount of outlays that would be expected from having 2011 appropriations set at the same level as 2010 appropriations.

That’s a cumulative number, which means the CBO estimates savings of about $2 billion per year over the next decade. Turns out that budget cutting is harder than it looks, even for Republicans. I predict that John Boehner is in a heap of trouble with the tea party wing of his caucus.

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