What Washington Really Means by 'Spending Cuts'

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WASHINGTON -- When President Obama used the word "investments" to pitch his jobs plan, critics said it was code for spending.
    
However, the president is not the only one accused of using code.
    
Republicans pledged to make spending cuts a top priority. But some are beginning to question what spending cuts really mean in Washington-speak.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate are preparing to vote on a series of spending bills this week totaling $182 billion.
    
The vote comes as the supercommittee scrambles to meet its goal of shaving $1.5 trillion in deficit spending over the next 10 years.

"The six Republicans on the joint select committee want an outcome, do not believe failure is an option and are working toward that end as diligently as we can," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.
    
But for some fiscal conservatives -- even if they do meet their goal -- they will fall short. The reason, they say, is that the bar's been set too low, and those spending cuts wouldn't amount to much.
    
Patrick Louis Knudsen, senior fellow in budgetary affairs with The Heritage Foundation, used to work as a congressional staffer on the House Budget Committee.
  
He pointed to loopholes that Congress inserted into last summer's debt ceiling deal that make the savings minimal or even non-existent.

"They're punching it through with all kinds of options to go outside the limits to break the agreement, and in effect, to deceive the American people about how much spending is really being done," Knudsen told CBN News.
    
Some of the loopholes in the debt deal include the following:

  • Funding for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Money to fight health care fraud and abuse
  • Disaster relief for catastrophes, including some that occurred years ago, like Hurricane Katrina

Knudsen said these exceptions amount to nothing more than gimmicks that show Congress hasn't gotten serious about addressing the fiscal crisis.

"It's downright outrageous," he said.
    
Even Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the supercommittee co-chair, agreed that Washington seems to have its own vocabulary when it comes to spending the taxpayers' money.

"A cut is not a cut in Washington," he remarked. "It's simply moderating the growth."
    
It's a mindset that makes cutting government spending easier said than done.

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