MY VIEW: Marc Goldwein April 2014

Elected officials in Congress often hide new spending or tax cuts by taking advantage of the rules followed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Marc Goldwein, Senior Policy Director at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, recently highlighted four examples of this budget trickery in a piece published in The AtlanticWith debt at historical levels and set to rise over the next decade even under current law, policymakers need to avoid using these budget gimmicks and instead face the reality that new tax and spending measures have real costs. Goldwein writes:

"Last night, the Senate passed legislation sent over from the House to avoid a deep cut to physician payments through a 12-month “Doc Fix.” Later this week they will likely pass a bill restoring and extending emergency unemployment benefits. These proposals have two things in common. First, they both would cost money and add to the deficit. And second, their proponents claim they would not add to the deficit, and they use data from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to support this claim.

How do you spend more without adding to the deficit on paper? Budget gimmicks, that's how.

Under current law, “pay as you go” rules require legislators to find $1 in savings for every $1 in new spending (or cut taxes) over 10 years. This rule is meant to control the debt and prevent frivolous new tax and spending plans. But budget gimmicks offer an escape hatch for policymakers to evade the rule. My organization, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, released a chartbook explaining many of these gimmicks. Here’s how they work:..."

Goldwein explains four gimmicks in detail, with accompanying charts. They include:

  • Using the Magic Window to Hide Spending
  • Shifting Savings Inside the Budget Window
  • Payment for Permanent Costs with Temporary Savings
  • Using Phony War Savings to Finance Real Costs

Click here to read the full article at The Atlantic.

"My Views" are works published by members of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, but they do not necessarily reflect the views of all members of the committee.