Monday, July 25, 2011

GOP can't have it both ways on war spending

Part of the savings in Harry Reid's proposed deficit savings comes from cost savings in winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Republicans see this has a gimmick by counting as 'savings' money not spent. And they may be right, except that much of the 'savings' in the first 10 years of Paul Ryan's budget is the identical cost savings by winding down the wars. And the assumption of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continuing at the current level plus inflation are including in the CBO estimates used by Speaker Boehner.

Ezra Klein explains,

There’s some truth to this argument, as I’ll explain in a minute. But the GOP is trying to have it both ways. Boehner uses the Congressional Budget Office’s deficit estimates. He doesn’t subtract trillions because he doesn’t believe the agency’s war-spending estimates are faulty. Nor do I remember him calling the savings from Paul Ryan’s budget — which Boehner voted for — fake.But the Congressional Budget Office counts trillions in war spending in its budget baseline, and Ryan’s budget cut a trillion dollars from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

In fact, cutting war spending was one of Ryan’s largest sources of savings over the first decade. The following table, which you can find in larger form in this document (pdf) at the House Budget Committee’s Web site, estimates them at $1.04 trillion against the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline.

The CBO in estimating future spending looks at current spending in Afghanistan and Iraq and assumes that spending grows by the rate of inflation. So CBO estimates of future spending do not take into account plans to wind down both wars. However, the estimates used by Paul Ryan and Harry Reid assume both wars will be wound down as planned and count the money not spent as savings.

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