With all the talk of budget cuts in Washington, the average American could be forgiven for thinking that federal spending is, in fact, being reduced. Certainly the chattering classes are pushing the notion hard, arguing that the dawning age of austerity is responsible for the nation’s slow-to-nonexistent economic recovery.
John Merline begs to differ. Writing for Investor’s Business Daily, Merline remarks that “so far, there haven’t been any spending cuts at all.” “In the first nine months of this year,” he explains, “federal spending was $120 billion higher than in the same period in 2010, the [Treasury] data show. That’s an increase of almost 5%. And deficits during this time were $23.5 billion higher.”
How can this be when politicians of both parties are constantly trumpeting their efforts to expunge excessive expenses?
As is frequently the case, the folks inside the Beltway have a different edition of Webster’s than the rest of us. Whereas to the average American a spending cut means reducing the amount spent from one year to the next, to the average Washingtonian it means reducing the planned increase in year-over-year spending. Thus, if a program’s budget was slated to grow by six percent but actually increased by just three percent, it is said to have suffered a 50-percent cut — which is how a five-percent rise in federal outlays translates into “slashing” the budget.
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