Memo to Clueless Media: Obama's $17 Bil in 'Cuts' Aren't Real Spending Reductions

May 8th, 2009 12:01 AM

NROtheCornerLogo0509President Obama today announced $17 billion in "spending cuts" Thursday.

Here are the substantive early paragraphs of the the Associated Press's coverage of what the President had to say:

Obama sent Congress a detailed budget Thursday proposing to eliminate or trim 121 programs and save $17 billion next year — not a trifle, for sure, but only about half of one percent of the $3.4 trillion in federal spending for the fiscal year begining in October.

The size of the savings clearly was a sore subject at the White House.

"It is important ... for all of you, as you're writing up these stories, to recognize that $17 billion taken out of our discretionary, non-defense budget, as well as portions of our defense budget, are significant," Obama told reporters. "They mean something."

Still, Obama's hit list was smaller than the one President George W. Bush included in his budget last year targeting 151 programs for $34 billion in savings.

These alleged cuts mean almost nothing, according to the Heritage Foundation's Brian Riedl, who cut through the misdirection earlier today at The Corner (bolds are mine):

..... Virtually every dollar “saved” would automatically go towards new spending instead of deficit reduction.

Here’s why: The president already proposed a specific discretionary spending level (which included these proposals), and Congress has already approved a budget that would spend $1,086 billion on regular discretionary spending in FY 2010. The discretionary savings proposals affect only the composition of such spending. Thus, even if the entire $12.5 billion in discretionary spending cuts are enacted, the savings would automatically be plowed into other programs to maintain discretionary spending at that pre-set $1,086 billion level. So this exercise is about reorganizing — not reducing — government.

Even on the entitlement side, $3.6 billion of the $4.6 billion in 2010 savings comes from phasing out the subsidized student-loan program, with all savings redirected into expanded Pell grants. There is virtually no deficit reduction from these reforms.

To be fair, Bush's cuts may have meant just as little, for the reasons Reidl outlined.

But as to the media coverage of the current alleged reductions, Reidl is right. If anyone in the establishment media caught what Reidl did, I haven't seen evidence of it. Among many others, it's not this LA Times story; it's not at this piece at the Caucus blog at the New York Times; a Poltico story fails to even mention the total size of the federal budget.

The sleight-of-hand certainly isn't in evidence at the AP item I referred to above.

AP reporters Tom Raum and Andrew Taylor, despite being supposedly wily news veterans -- or perhaps because they are supposedly wily news veterans -- also let Obama get away with this propaganda howler:

If there was a theme to Obama's cuts and spending initiatives, it was to continue to provide generous increases to domestic programs that had been squeezed during the eight years of the Bush administration while reviving oft-rejected Bush-era proposals to cut programs that critics say have outlived their usefulness but still have important support on Capitol Hill.

"What we're trying to do is reorient government activity toward things that work," said White House Budget Director Peter Orszag.

Orszag's use of the word "reorient" is a red flag that there really is no spending reduction going on here.

Sadly, the Obama administration's claim that the Bush administration put any kind of meaningful squeeze on spending during its first seven years of budget responsibility is clearly a load of rubbish, as the following list of annual federal spending during those years shows:


The only year that had anything even resembling control on the spending side was 2006-2007, the last budget for which the Republican majority can claim credit.

Bush's eighth year of budget and spending responsibility would ordinarily have been the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009, and he surely still bears responsibility for some spending increases, especially those relating to the initial bank and auto bailouts. But the fact is that most of the spending increases that will push this year's federal spending to $4 trillion, including the $800 billion or so-called stimulus package, were pursued by Barack Obama and enacted after Obama took office.

Obama's spending increases are real. As shown earlier, the spending "cuts" are just a mirage.

Cross-posted at