"You couldn't rationally cut $800 billion from the budget this year to balance the budget," Robert Bixby, executive director of Concord Coalition, rightly noted. The economy would tank.
That said, Bixby is leery of the vaunted claim of $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction, because the Budget Control Act focused on discretionary spending, even though entitlement spending is the big cost driver. If Washington had chosen to cut spending by reforming Medicare and Social Security, Bixby noted, the cuts could work more smoothly. (Washington could slowly raise the retirement age or recalculate how inflation is indexed.) By targeting discretionary spending, lawmakers have built in incentives for future Congresses to budget outside the 2011 caps. That's why Bixby takes Washington's "calculations with a grain of salt."