Apples to Oranges: Clarifying the Cuts in the CR
Due to a reports published yesterday, there is some confusion regarding the spending cuts in H.R. 1473, the Continuing Resolution, on the floor of the House of Representatives today. While some have gone so far as to call the budget deal a “fake,” the only discrepancies manifest in the attempt by some to move the goal posts in the middle of the game.
First, the nit-picking on numbers is a result of conflation between how the government budgets and how it spends money. The entire FY 2011 budget discussion has revolved around the government’s Budget Authority (BA), the permission given to government to spend money. Thus, the House-passed H.R.1 cut $61 billion in BA for the fiscal year, while H.R. 1473 cuts almost $40 billion.
Some are arguing now that because these cuts are not reflected in outlays, or the money that actually goes out the door, they are not “real.” This is not only dishonest, it is totally ignorant of the way the federal government budgets.
What’s more, it is an entirely nonsensical conservative position to argue that rescinding permission to spend money does not equate to spending cuts. To reform the federal budget process, small government advocates need to address the way government spends money – as the process is driven by BA, and not outlays, it is unhelpful to discuss budget-cutting in terms of outlays. It is especially malevolent to do so now in the eleventh hour of the budget fight that has revolved entirely around a discussion of BA for FY 2011.
More reports argue that the current CR will actually increase spending above last year’s levels. This is also untrue, and an entirely disingenuous argument to make – it relies on this chart, released from CBO, which scores the outlay levels in H.R. 1473 as a $3 billion increase over the current CR’s outlays. Looking back at the outlay scores provided for the previous continuing resolutions passed this year, it is immediately obvious that the outlays are an inconsistent and inappropriate metric – indeed, the CR currently funding government constitutes a $8 billion increase over the previous CR when only outlays are considered.
In short, the most recent attacks on H.R. 1473 are amateur agitations. Given that the CR will provide hundreds of billions in savings for taxpayers in the long-term and sets the stage for trillions in savings in next year’s budget fight, this latest drama in the FY 2011 budget fight exposes who is really serious about diminishing the size of government, and who is looking to simply pick a fight. Taxpayers should be leery of those who prefer to be the latter.