Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center spent time talking to experienced Washington budgeteers this weekend. What did the old budget hands think of the latest deal to reduce the deficit? Not much:
In short, don't count on much real deficit reduction any time soon, despite this summer's debt limit deal that, amid much angst, allegedly cut spending by $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
To these veterans of the fiscal wars, the odds are awfully long that Congress' new budget super committee will reach a broad deficit reduction agreement by Thanksgiving—perhaps one-in-three at best. But there is worse news for those who worry about long-term deficits: Although the debt agreement requires an additional $1.5 trillion in automatic spending reductions over 10 years should the Gang of 12 fail, not one of these experts believes those cuts will ever happen. Congress will find a way to avoid, evade, delay, or otherwise confound these spending limits. In other words, the stick that is supposed to force lawmakers to act is mostly sawdust.
Pulling the debt-deal trigger may not merely be the best (bad) option. It may be the only option.