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Supercommittee To Use War Savings Gimmick

From a gladdened Washington Post:

Supercommittee looks to count savings on war spending

By Lori Montgomery
Published: November 14

The congressional “supercommittee” is looking to count as budget savings as much as $700 billion that the nation no longer plans to spend on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next decade, an accounting gimmick that has drawn fire from both Democrats and Republicans.

In deference to that criticism, aides from both parties said the panel would not count war savings toward its primary debt-reduction goal of at least $1.2 trillion. Instead, they are considering using the savings to “pay for” other priorities, such as extending emergency unemployment benefits and a temporary payroll tax cut currently enjoyed by every American worker.

In other words, instead of returning any savings from slashing the Pentagon’s budget to the Treasury, they are going to use the money to buy votes. That is great news. And what a great response to the ‘criticism.’

Both measures are scheduled to expire at the end of this year, potentially damaging the fragile recovery — an outcome that President Obama and other Democrats are eager to avoid. Unless their cost is offset by other savings, however, extending them through 2012 would add billions to next year’s budget deficit — an outcome Republicans oppose.

So, again, the Republicans are agreeing to use money wrung from the Pentagon to fund the Democrats’ Christmas list?

Budget analysts were appalled by the idea. Robert Bixby of the bipartisan Concord Coalition called war savings “the mother of all budget gimmicks.” But aides in both parties said an agreement to use war savings to offset the cost of urgent expenses could help build support for a broader accord on the debt, which is likely to require lawmakers to support politically painful spending cuts and tax increases.

“There is around $917 billion to be saved over the next 10 years from the overseas contingency account. And we ought to count that,” Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), a supercommittee member, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We ought to use that savings . . . to plow it into job-creation programs that would get people back to work, and paying taxes, and off of food stamps and off of unemployment.”

And what better way to get people off of unemployment than by extending unemployment benefits beyond the already absurd 99 weeks?

The concept of war savings is a budget quirk that rose to prominence in 2009, when Obama took office on a promise to end both wars. Budget analysts estimated that doing so would save vast sums compared with an alternative policy path that would have allowed the wars to grind on indefinitely at surge levels.

In other words, there are no real savings, since nobody ever imagined that the wars would continue indefinitely, especially at "surge levels."

In his budget requests to Congress, Obama has regularly taken credit for more than $1 trillion in 10-year savings from ending the wars…

Which should be proof enough it is a lie. But apparently it is a lie they are going to spend over and over.

At first, Republicans balked. Boehner has dismissed the idea of counting war savings, saying the reductions are “already going to happen.” And House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has criticized war savings as “gimmicks and accounting tricks.”

But in recent weeks, the idea has grown more palatable to the GOP, promoted by some defense hawks as a replacement for automatic cuts to the Pentagon that will hit in 2013 if the supercommittee fails to draft its own debt-reduction blueprint.

In other words, the Republicans would rather pretend there is these savings than see the Pentagon get slashed by another half trillion dollars.

But what a preposterous position to be in in the first place.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, November 15th, 2011. Comments are currently closed.

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