House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Announces Phantom Spending Cuts

Today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) — who was endowed by the House Republican majority with the power to unilaterally set spending limits that are binding on the House — released his envisioned spending level for the remainder of the fiscal year. House Republicans have been torn internally over how much Ryan should cut, with the leadership pushing for something in the realm of $50 billion, while others wanted the GOP to stick to its initial “Pledge to America” total of $100 billion in cuts.

Ryan, seeming to think that splitting the difference would suffice, proudly announced that his chosen budget level amounts to $74 billion in cuts:

Pursuant to House Rules H.Res. 5 and spending reduction resolution H.Res. 38, the Budget Committee Chairman will file an allocation to set 2011 discretionary budget authority (BA) at $1,055 billion, which will produce savings of $74 billion compared to the President’s request.

However, there’s much less to this than meets the eye. Notice that Ryan is comparing his chosen budget baseline “to the President’s request.” However, President Obama’s 2011 budget request was never acted upon by Congress, which instead chose to enact a continuing resolution funding the government at the 2010 level. So Ryan’s $74 billion in cuts are, in reality, closer to $30-35 billion, since part of his savings come from cutting spending increases that were never made:

After deliberating for weeks, Ryan said today he and other Republican leaders will propose cutting the portion of the fiscal 2011 budget funding non-security-related discretionary programs by $43 billion from 2010 levels. At the same time, they plan to boost spending this year on defense, homeland security and veterans programs by $8 billion…Compared to what Obama requested, the savings outlined today by Ryan would amount to $74 billion.

Ultimately, “the new cap on appropriations to be filed next week will set a 2011 ceiling of $1.055 trillion — $32 billion less than the latest CBO score of $1.087 trillion.” Ryan is evidently a little touchy about people pointing out his phantom budget reductions:

Even these cuts, if they’re focused on key investments or programs that promote economic competitiveness or education, could do real economic damage. The Economic Policy Institute has found that Ryan’s original plan to reduce non-defense discretionary spending to the 2008 level would cause the loss of 600,000 jobs.