Ending The Wars Is Not A Budget Gimmick

Bill Scher

Republicans are attacking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s plan to cut $2.7 trillion in spending over 10 years because it reportedly includes $1 trillion in savings from drawing down military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, calling it a budget “gimmick”.

This is your standard Republican hypocrisy, since the every budget plan passed by the House Republicans this year and supported by their Senator counterparts also includes that $1 trillion in savings from the drawdowns.

But put the hypocrisy aside for the moment, and ask: is it a gimmick or not?

The claim that it’s a gimmick is based on the fact that the plans to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan are already in place, but since they are not written into law, they are not presumed in Congressional Budget Office budget projections. So you can count the drawdowns as savings without making any new decisions.

So what?

The two unpaid wars are a major drivers of our deficits. Ending them saves real money.

The fact that CBO has not credited the policy change yet doesn’t make those savings fake.

Why should the Obama administration be penalized for getting some its homework done early?

Why should making a major policy decision that saves money — before we hit the debt limit deadline, before a broader deficit reduction deal is in place — count for nothing?

You would only dismiss the $1 trillion if your real objective wasn’t cutting the deficit to achieve long-term fiscal stability, but was cutting government because you hate government.

If all conservatives wanted was to balance the budget and, in their words, prevent America from becoming Greece, then conservatives would have long ago accepted a deal which reduced our debt in part by raising revenues.

And they would happily count the expected savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Money is money. Savings is savings.

But that is not what they want.

Instead, the House Republicans are trying to jam through a radical budget plan that would, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities concluded, require “deeper Medicare cuts than the Ryan budget, cuts Medicaid, food stamps, and Supplemental Security Income for the elderly and disabled poor in half by the end of the decade, and raises the Social Security retirement age to 70.” (Emphasis added.)

And they need gimmicks to make the case that such radical austerity is necessary. The real gimmick is pretending that ending the wars doesn’t actually save any money.

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