For fiscal year 2011, base discretionary spending totaled $1.049 trillion. The authors of the Budget Control Act are quick to point out they capped base discretionary spending for fiscal year 2012 at $1.043 trillion. Using those numbers, the BCA appears to bring about $6 billion in real cuts in fiscal year 2012.
Here is the catch: the BCA also included an additional $10.4 billion in so-called “disaster relief” spending. Therefore, the correct baseline to use is base discretionary spending plus “disaster relief.” For fiscal year 2012, that number comes to $1.053 trillion. For fiscal year 2011, it was $1.052 trillion.
Only Washington could claim with a straight face to enact $6 billion in real cuts while actually increasing spending by $1 billion.
The duplicity is as outrageous as its cause. Much of the $10.4 billion in “disaster relief” is aimed at recovery efforts from previous disasters. Rather than budgeting for these known expenses under the BCA caps, the backroom dealmakers decided to move them off budget to hide the deal’s real costs.
By way of comparison, the House-passed budget authored by Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) included zero dollars in faux “disaster relief” spending and capped base discretionary spending for fiscal year 2012 at $1.019 trillion. While still above pre-stimulus levels, it represented a solid step in the right direction.
Washington is not going in the right direction, though. With his request for another $1.2 trillion in debt authority, President Obama confirms the debt deal simply enabled Washington’s bad habits. It was akin to giving an alcoholic a wad of cash in a bar because he promised he would not spend it all that night and he would go to rehab sometime soon.
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