House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) led the charge today in confronting the President’s budget director on the real numbers behind the announced $4 trillion deficit reduction in the budget released on Monday.
During the House Budget Committee hearing, Republicans grilled Acting White House Budget Director Jeffrey Zients on the difference between what the Chairman believes to be “accounting tricks” and “budget gimmicks” and the level of deficit reduction the President has touted this budget achieves.
Chairman Ryan correctly pointed out that the President can take very little credit for the purported deficit reduction included in his budget. The $4 trillion figure the President has claimed relies heavily on previously enacted legislation and war savings on the spending side of the equation.
The almost $850 billion is war savings was a particular source of contention because the reality is that that money was never spent or really ever going to be spent. It was allocated over the next 10 years despite the commonly accepted timeline for the exit and winding down of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively. It is the difference between actively reforming or cutting and simply not spending. The President cannot claim deficit reduction simply because the baseline was not appropriately projected.
The real issue continues to be fundamental tax and entitlement reform, which the President did not include in his budget. Zients stumbled over every question asked regarding entitlement reform.
These are the facts. Under the President’s budget spending on the three largest entitlements, Social Security, and Medicaid, will increase 92.4 percent in the next 10 years compared to 61.4 percent of all spending. Medicaid alone is projected to increase about 110 percent. This spending, comprised of just three programs, would grow as a percentage of all spending from 41.1 to 48.9 percent. The real question though is what happens beyond the 10-year window. We can no longer ignore what comprises nearly one half of the federal budget and will one day comprise more.
We need to put a plan in place – one that acknowledges the reality of our debt beyond the 10-year window.