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Ryan, GOP Propose to Cut Non-Security Discretionary Spending to 2008 Levels

But you wouldn’t know it from reading the papers.

9:45 AM, Feb 8, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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President Obama’s proposal was to increase non-security discretionary spending to $478 billion in fiscal year 2011. In 2008, such spending totaled $378 billion. During the congressional campaign, Republicans promised to bring such spending back down to that 2008 level, an annual cut of $100 billion from the president’s proposal — and they will no doubt attempt to do so when Ryan proposes the 2012 House budget. But thanks to the Democrats’ budgetary negligence, Republicans now have the chance to propose spending cuts even before a new House of Representatives would generally be given a chance to act. 

Fifty-seven percent of the 2011 fiscal year will remain after March 4. Since President Obama proposed to increase non-security discretionary spending by $100 billion in relation to 2008, Republicans’ proposal to return to 2008 spending levels after March 4 amounts to their proposing $57 billion (actually $58 billion) in spending cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year (57 or 58 percent of $100 billion), even before they set their sights on 2012 and their first opportunity to submit a budget of their own.

To be clear, non-security domestic spending in 2008 was $378 billion, and it would be $420 in 2011 even if the GOP cuts were to go into effect. But that’s because the GOP cuts could only go into effect after five months’ worth of money had already washed under the bridge at the rapid speed of Democratic spending. From March 5 forward, spending would slow to the gentler pace of 2008 rates. 

The media outlets — like the Times and the Post — that are reporting only $32 billion in cuts aren’t comparing the GOP’s proposed spending with Obama’s proposed spending, but rather the GOP’s proposed spending with 2010 spending (even though we’re now in 2011). Moreover, they aren’t comparing non-security discretionary spending, but rather all discretionary spending. (On top of that, they’re mysteriously denying the GOP $4 billion in credit for its proposed spending cuts, even by these measures.) That’s fine (apart from the $4 billion), but if 2010 is the baseline, then Obama’s proposed 2011 discretionary spending should also be compared with that same baseline. 

Obama’s proposal was to increase 2011 discretionary spending by $38 billion over 2010. So the swing between Obama’s $38 billion in proposed spending increases and the GOP’s reported $32 billion in proposed spending cuts is $70 billion. The only thing separating that figure from National Journal’s tally of $74 billion is the mysteriously missing $4 billion. What’s more, the only thing separating the National Journal’s figure of $74 billion from NPR’s figure of $58 billion is that the Republicans propose to spend $16 billion less on discretionary security spending than President Obama proposes we spend.

The key point in all of this is that, under the budgetary leadership of Paul Ryan, Republicans are making good on their campaign promise: Even before getting a chance to announce their own budget, they are proposing to cut non-security discretionary spending back down to 2008 levels — a full 25 percent beneath where President Obama wants that level of spending to be. 

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