James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

How big a budget fight?

March 28, 2011

I partially agree with Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner:

As everybody who studies the federal budget knows, the true drivers of our long-term debt are entitlement programs. Under President Obama’s proposed budget, so-called “mandatory spending” on programs including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would approach $3.5 trillion by 2021, according to the Congressional Budget Office, representing roughly 60 percent of that year’s federal spending.

So the question facing conservative activists is whether to focus all their energies on the short-time budget fight that deals with $61 billion in cuts over the next several months, or place more emphasis the next fight that could affect spending for decades to come.

There’s nothing wrong with making gradual-but-sustained progress on an issue.  But don’t underestimate the important of cutting discretionary spending. If such spending were rolled back to 2008 levels, frozen for a decade and then allowed to increase at 3 percent a year, the long-term savings would be equal to long-term Social Security deficit.

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