October 13, 2015

Posts on discretionary spending

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - 3:52 PM

By Rebecca Williams 

A viable plan to reduce our country’s mounting deficits and debt will be built on painful choices that include revenue increases and cuts to all government spending, including entitlements and defense. With such thorny issues at stake, it should come at no surprise that many policymakers turn to the easy issue first -- foreign aid. Even here, though, there are no exceptions to the need for government to act and spend strategically.

Skeptics of foreign aid question its effectiveness and value, and some hope to dramatically reduce America’s debt by slashing aid. Meanwhile, proponents insist that foreign aid is an art more than a science -- a modest investment that furthers U.S. foreign policy and addresses a few of the world’s ills.

But hardliners in both camps distort what actually goes on.

Americans significantly overestimate how much our government spends in this area. Respondents to one poll guessed that around 25 percent of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. In reality, it’s approximately 1 percent. The U.S. government will spend $39 billion on foreign aid in FY2011, a sum equal to 3 percent of the estimated $1.4 trillion deficit. 

Ending or deeply cutting foreign aid will not radically alter federal spending or contribute significantly...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 11:57 AM

Here is a trivia question: Under which scenario would Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid make up the larger share of non-interest (i.e. “primary”) federal government spending?

A. President Obama’s budget

B. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget (House Budget Committee)

The answer is B.

Under Ryan’s budget, these programs would grow from 46 percent of primary spending in 2011 to 62 percent in 2021. This compares with an increase to 56 percent under the President’s budget.

The divergence becomes even more pronounced after that. By 2040, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid account for 74 percent of non-interest spending under Ryan’s budget compared to 62 percent under the President’s budget.

At first, this result may come as a surprise because it is clear that Ryan’s budget would do far more than the President’s budget to curtail the growth of federal health care spending. At...

Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 1:30 PM

Moe, Larry and Curly are fighting in the back seat of the car. No one is in the driver’s seat. As the boys settle down, Curly looks up and says, “Hey, don’t look now but we’re about to be killed.”

Leave it to The Three Stooges to provide the perfect metaphor for what passes as a budget debate in Washington these days.

It appears that we’re headed for a government shutdown in April and a possible default in May all because politicians can’t stop squabbling over a few billion dollars from a small slice of the budget while our overall fiscal policy is headed for a cliff.

The long-awaited “adult conversation” has not yet begun.

Very few dispute the fact that we’re on an unsustainable fiscal path. Yet too few seem willing to take the mountain of official and unofficial warnings seriously enough to do anything about them.

Indeed, they seem eager to engage in a reckless game of fiscal chicken, virtually daring the other side to do something responsible. We are left with a fierce debate over non-security appropriations that account for only 12 percent of the budget.

That is why even tentative sprouts of reason are worth nurturing. For...

Thursday, March 24, 2011 - 3:30 PM

Budget-watchers in Washington are quite interested in how Republican Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, will write a budget that will achieve the numerous and sometimes conflicting aims of his conference. The difficulties facing him are the subject of a recent Concord Coalition issue brief, which we just updated to reflect the new numbers from the CBO's Preliminary Analysis of the President's Budget. 

Ryan faces the need to show noticeable progress on deficits (within at least five to 10 years) because the new Republican majority feels one of the main reasons they were elected in November was because voters were angry about large deficits. He also faces a group of freshmen Republicans who were elected on platforms that primarily called for cuts in non-defense, discretionary programs, while promising to protect defense spending, cut taxes, and not talk too much about the long-term spending challenge in popular entitlement programs.

As the issue brief illustrates, through a hypothetical...

Thursday, November 11, 2010 - 3:07 PM

The problem with campaign rhetoric is that you’re stuck with it if you win.

The danger is that people might just believe you can really do all the wondrous things you promise and if you don’t deliver, they get angry. That, in part, helps to explain what happened to President Obama and congressional Democrats last week.

Now, it’s the Republicans’ turn to see if they can live up to their campaign rhetoric. On the fiscal front, they have set a very high bar for themselves.

Republicans campaigned on a written pledge to put the nation on a path to a balanced budget by cutting spending and not raising taxes.

It is easy to see the political appeal in that promise. Most people think the deficit is too big and that the federal government spends too much. Very few want to see their taxes go up.

The problem with the Republicans’ pledge is that the numbers don’t add up.

Forget ideology and just look at the projections. Last year’s deficit came in at $1.3 trillion. This year, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects a deficit of $1.1 trillion. Beyond then, CBO projects 10-year deficits totaling $6.2 trillion.   


Monday, September 20, 2010 - 10:10 AM

Below are several developments we have been following since the last edition of the Washington Budget Report (sign up here) was published.

With less than two weeks remaining before the beginning of the new fiscal year, Congress has not passed a budget resolution or enacted a single appropriations bill for the coming year.   The House has passed a deeming resolution which could be used to pass the appropriations bills, though the Senate has not passed a similar measure.  Last week the Senate Appropriations Committee completed action on the legislative branch and defense bills. ...

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 10:58 AM

Below are several developments we have been following since the last edition of the Washington Budget Report (sign up here) was published.

FY 2011 APPROPRIATIONS:  Prior to departing for the August recess, the House passed the first two FY 2011 appropriations bills. The Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill passed by a vote of 411-6 and the Transportation-HUD bill passed by a vote of 251-167. House subcommittees reported the...

Monday, July 26, 2010 - 10:14 AM

Below are several developments we have been following since the last edition of the Washington Budget Report (sign up here) was published.

COMMITTEES REPORT ADDITIONAL FY 2011 APPROPRIATIONS BILLS:  Last week the House Appropriations Committee continued to make progress on the FY 2011 bills.  The full committee reported the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill as well as the Transportation- Housing and Urban Development bill.  Both bills are expected...

Monday, July 19, 2010 - 3:51 PM

Last week President Obama nominated Jacob “Jack” Lew to be the new head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), replacing Peter Orszag, who is stepping down at the end of July. OMB is primarily responsible for developing the President’s budget.

If confirmed by the Senate, as expected, Lew will become OMB director for the second time. He served as President Clinton’s director from 1998 through the end of the Clinton administration in 2001.

While Lew is familiar with the job, the budget picture has changed considerably. Lew was OMB director during the only four years of budget surpluses since the late 1960’s. He was also a key negotiator on the bipartisan balanced budget agreement in 1997. Now the budget environment is even more partisan and the country is experiencing the largest deficits since the end of World War II.

The change in OMB leadership provides an opportunity to review the changes that have taken place since Lew’s last stint as budget director and also gives us another chance to review the major decisions looming for the federal budget.

The final budget presented by Lew for the Clinton administration in February of 2000 (FY 2001)...

Monday, July 19, 2010 - 10:34 AM

Below are several developments we have been following since the last edition of the Washington Budget Report (sign up here) was published. 

2011 APPROPRIATIONS PROCESS MOVES FORWARD AS TIME STANDS STILL FOR THE 2010 SUPPLEMENTAL: Last week the House Appropriations Committee continued to make progress on the FY 2011 bills. House subcommittees reported the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; Energy and Water; and...