Sunday, July 31, 2011

Any debt deal will have little austerity: America's massive debt will continue to rise

It is clear we must enter an age of austerity," House minority leader Nancy Pelosi mourned as she endorsed Harry Reid's proposal for raising the debt ceiling. Austerity? Really?

The Reid plan would theoretically cut spending by $2.7 trillion over ten years. Even if that were true, it would still allow our national debt to increase by some $10 trillion over the next decade. But, of course, the $2.7 trillion figure is mostly fiction. About $1 trillion of the savings would come from the eventual end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, savings that were going to occur anyway. Senator Reid might just as well have added another $1 trillion in savings by not invading Pakistan.

Another $400 billion comes not from cuts but from assuming reduced interest payments. And, of course, there are $40 billion in unspecified "program-integrity savings," meaning the "waste, fraud, and abuse" that is the last refuge of every phony budget cutter. The plan rejects any changes to Medicare and Social Security, despite the fact that the unfunded liabilities from those two programs could run as high as $110 trillion. But those liabilities generally fall outside the ten-year budget window, so Reid — unlike our children and grandchildren — doesn't have to worry about them. (more)