Richard Salsman crunches the numbers at Forbes on the attempt to “cut” the size of the public debt:

[…] Even the most “radical” GOP plan, to “cut” $9 trillion, would boost federal outlays by 30% in the coming decade versus outlays in the past decade, while the most modest GOP plan, to cut a mere $2 trillion, would boost outlays by 55%. Yet Democrats lambaste GOP plans as “Draconian,” prone to trigger a “depression.”

By “baseline” federal spending over the coming decade, the CBO means the sum that’ll be spent even with no changes in current fiscal policy, whether in tax rates or spending schemes. As mentioned, the CBO says $45.8 trillion in outlays over the coming decade are effectively on “auto-pilot,” so any proposed “cut” is relative only to this huge number. As mentioned, Washington spent $28.3 trillion over the past decade, so embedded “baseline” spending of $45.8 trillion in the coming decade already entails an astounding increase of 62%. In the coming decade neither U.S. population nor real economic output would rise nearly so much.

[…] Why are today’s politicians, journalists and economists so complicit in deliberately misleading the public about the current and future state of U.S. finances? Why do they speak of “cuts” in future federal spending when the CBO routinely projects increases in the range of +30% to +65%? Check those numbers again, dear citizen: they’re positive, not negative. “Baseline budgeting,” which blithely presumes a perpetually-growing government, was first enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1974, in order to side-step White House efforts to “impound” (limit) federal spending; but that doesn’t condone the gimmick – or justify lying to the public. When people hear that Washington will “cut” spending by $2 trillion over the coming decade, they think that’s a lot of money and that outlays might be $2 trillion lower a decade hence – not higher by 50% or more. Even Boehner’s budget plan, like many others, backloads the “cuts” into later years; he’d “cut” outlays by only $23 billion in 2012, equivalent to less than three days of total federal spending at the current spending rate.  [Richard Salsman, Forbes,  Washington’s Budget “Cuts” Would Boost Spending 50%]

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