Fiscal Cliff

The President's Non-Specific Spending Cuts


At a White House press conference yesterday, President Obama touted his willingness to agree to tough spending cuts. "We have put forward real cuts in spending that are hard to do in every category," he said. If Republicans agree to a deal, "they can get some very meaningful spending cuts." 

Can spending reductions be both meaningful and non-specific? The problem is that president hasn't offered much detail when it comes to the sort of  spending reductions he'd accept. And despite the House Republicans' rhetorical focus on the need for significant spending cuts, they haven't offered much in the way of specifics either.

As The New York Times notes:

Despite the dueling news conferences and stream of well-rehearsed sound bites from the White House and Congress about the budget talks, one element is still largely missing from the debate: details about spending cuts.

Beyond numbers so large they are virtually meaningless to most Americans and a few specific proposals, like an adjustment to the Social Security formula, neither side has said much about how it wants to cut federal spending. Given that tax increases — the most discussed point of the negotiations — would by themselves only bring in a fraction of the $1.2 trillion in new revenue the president has called for, the omissions are all the more glaring.

At best, the White House has indicated some broad areas where it might be open to reduced spending:

The White House has proposed $800 billion in cuts. The president has said that half would come from federal health care programs; $200 billion from other so-called mandatory programs, like farm price supports that are not subject to annual Congressional spending bills; $100 billion from military spending; and $100 billion from domestic programs under Congress's annual discretion.

Democrats in Congress admit they don't even know what sort of details the White House actually favors:

For members of Congress not in the top ranks of leadership, there is one more reason not to talk in detail about cuts: Many of them do not know what exactly is happening in the negotiations.

"For us, we remain united behind the president," said Representative John B. Larson, Democrat of Connecticut, a member of the House's tax-writing Ways and Means Committee and one of the party's Congressional leaders. "Everybody is always concerned about the details of any proposal. But to be brutally honest, we don't have a whole lot of details to look at."

To be sure, Republicans aren't being particularly forthcoming with what they want. But if the president expects people to believe that he's willing to make hard choices involving meaningful, it would be nice for him to say what those cuts actually entail. The White House just spent much of an election cycle complaining that the GOP presidential nominee wasn't being forthcoming with policy specifics. Doesn't the president, who is actually in power and in a position to make meaningful policy decisions, have a responsibility to spell out what, exactly, he supports? 


NEXT: Amnesty Group Condemns Greece's Treatment of Immigrants

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Doesn’t the president, who is actually in power and in a position to make meaningful policy decisions, have a responsibility to spell out what, exactly, he supports?

    Not this president. Of course, we know what he actually supports: himself.

    1. And technically, no president needs to. Spending is congress’ responsibility. They dont even need to negotiate until after the first veto.

  2. This like a big stakes poker match between the Pres, the GOP and the Senate Dems. No one is willing to show their hand. Eventually all the cards will have to come out though.

    Oh, and they’re all playing with our money.

  3. The cuts are “hard to do”?

    No, no they are not. You go like this:

    Dear Federally Funded Agency,

    We aren’t increasing the amount of money you get this year. Everyone gets an across the board 3% cut from what they received last year.

    Best Regards,

    Congress and the White House”

    BOOM. Done.

    We did in Tennessee a few years ago just fine. It’s not that hard.

    1. That sounds draconian.

      1. Princess Ardala of the Draconian Empire?

        I loved that fucking show (when I was 14). Watched a few episodes on netflix and it hasn’t aged well.

    2. Sounds like somebody hates children…..

  4. At least the Repubs, inept as they are, have finally figured out how this game is played:

    The side that gets specific first, loses.

    This isn’t that hard, Boehner. Just say that you will be happy to consider any spending bill that the Dems submit. They won, they have the mandate, so that means they are leading, right? So lead already. Draft a bill, get House Dem leadership to sponsor it, and submit it. And if they don’t, well, why not?

    1. They kind of did that. They passed a tax plan Nancy Pelosi has been touting last spring. The Dems were forced to admit that they didn’t support it and that it was just a political ploy.

  5. Who wants to read bullshit?…..h-upwards/

    1. Oh, you mean without charging my usual fee?

    2. “It’s not fair that he’s taking all the money from the poor people and giving it to the rich!”

      ….um…what money? They don’t have any money, that’s why their poor. What the fuck is he talking about?

      1. He’s talking about the 47% who don’t pay income taxes.

        See, holding their rates down, while increasing the rate on millionaires, transfers money from the poor people with low rates who don’t pay taxes to the millionaires with high rates who pay lots of taxes.

        Its obvious, really.

        1. I wonder if they really believe the create reality if they can only get enough people to believe their bullshit.

          1. They certainly seem to.

          2. If my last post wasn’t clear, it appears to me that progs believe that reality is subject to democratic processes. A good example is global warming, where “consensus” mattered more than the facts.

    3. I’ll give it a shot.

      First complaint: estate tax “would only apply to estates worth more than $5 million, at a cost of $119 billion in revenue over the next ten years.” They claim that this money “would go to the richest .3 percent of Americans who die each year.” Because dead people get paid.

      Second complaint: Plan B “would block limits on itemized deductions for high income earners, which are scheduled to go into effect on January 1st.” I really don’t know what he’s talking about here. AMT? Apparently, this would “provide people with incomes over $1 million an average tax cut of $118,000 each.” (emphasis in original)

      Third complaint: “The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit ? which were boosted in 2009 and 2010 ? would lose substantial value.”

      IOW, not transferring from rich to poor is transferring from poor to rich.

      1. The best part of his estate point I thought was “And this money wouldn’t go towards struggling farms or small businesses.”

      2. The Repubs need to come up with some tax plans that really target the Blue States:

        (1) Limit the mortgage interest deduction. Most of the really expensive real estate is in the Blue States.

        (2) Limit/eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes. The Blue States are the high-tax states.

        And, those are two of the biggest deductions, so you can defend them on policy grounds: “that’s where the money is”.

        1. Those are really the only two that matter to the middle class. If you eliminate those, pretty much everyone is going to end up back on the standard deduction. So kill those and you render all the other deductions pointless (for the middle class). The tax code would be so much simpler…

          1. I’m thinking just limiting them, as in, you can deduct the first $10,000 of your mortgage interest, and the first $5,000 of your state and local taxes.

            Low tax, low property value “Red” states would be relatively unaffected. The “Blue” states would bear the brunt. I mostly like this idea for the lulz that would ensue as the people who are constantly telling us that we need more tax revenue are presented with the bill.

            1. And if they complain, can respond that only “the rich” have houses that big or taxes that high.

            2. Also, when they whine, suggest getting rid of the 17th amendment as a fix.

            3. Already a limit on $1 million in total mortgage debt. Just drop that to $750k or $500k and see the states that restrict housing (i.e., Dem voting states) squeal.

              1. As in you can’t take the deduction on more than $1 million in mortgage principal debt already, which is why the deduction is for the top 1% or 2% or 5% more than than the .01%.

  6. No, fuck you, cut spending.

    Not sure, exactly, who Im directing that at. But its appropriate.

  7. I’m REALLY going to go out on a limb here and make a prediction: under any deal that is made before December 31, spending in FY13 will be MORE than if we just froze spending at FY12 levels.

    Note to the non-libertarian slice of the population, and especially the so-called “right”: Republicans do not want to cut spending.

  8. Those guys make all kinds of sense man, WOw.

  9. No one is going to mention that they aren’t even cuts they are reductions in spending increases?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.