When Congressional Republicans proposed $61 billion in spending cuts earlier this year, CAGW was excited. Granted, we had some nits to pick, but overall we were enthusiastic about the prospect of watching the budget get smaller. Then, last week, Vice President Joe Biden presented Republicans with the White House and Senate Democrats’ spending proposal, which consists of $6.5 billion in budget cuts. To Democrats’ credit, Biden’s offer would cut roughly $2 billion from defense, an area Republicans have been afraid to touch. And, to be fair, the Democrats’ proposal is surely intended to represent something of an opening offer, one which may be revised upward in the future. But some of the reactions to the Democrats’ proposal, from Democratic politicians and their supporters to their supporters in media, have been ridiculous, because at the end of the day, $6.5 billion is a joke.
Truth be told, the Republicans’ $61 billion cut is kind of a joke. It’s fairly unprecedented in Washington, which is why CAGW got so excited, but $61 billion is 1.5 percent of 2011’s $3.819 trillion budget. Conversely, $6.5 billion is three and a half Stealth Bombers. $6.5 billion is less than 6 percent of the $1.049 trillion by which the federal budget has increased since 2007.
For a little perspective, this is what $1 trillion worth of $100 bills looks like (notice the guy down in the corner):
Still, a March 6 NY Times editorial called the Republican proposal “Draconian,” and worried that “even half that amount … will still be doing enormous damage to many programs.” NPR actually used the word “slash” in its title describing the Democrats’ proposal.
To be clear: $6.5 billion is not a “slash” out of a trillion bucks. When I hear the word “slash,” I typically think of someone wielding something big and sharp, bringing it down with authority and taking big chunks out of whatever’s getting cut. “Snip” might be a more appropriate word for removing $6.5 billion from the image above (again, that’s how much bigger the budget has gotten since 2007). Or maybe the Democrats got out their biggest sword and raised it high over their collective heads, then sneezed halfway through the chopping motion and just sort of awkwardly nicked the corner of the budget. Either way, it’s not good enough. Try again.
(H/T to econ blogger Mark Perry for the image)