Setting the Record Straight...on War Spending

The Simpson-Bowles alternative budget resolution put forward this week by Representatives Cooper, LaTourette, Schrader, Bass, Quigley, Dold and Costa has come under fire for a number of reasons, but one of the seemingly more confusing points is what it does to war spending.

First, Americans for Tax Reform has made the claim that the budget does not account for war spending at all. Thus, when you add back in about $425 billion of post-drawdown war spending and net it against $625 billion of claimed discretionary savings, it comes out to only $200 billion of discretionary savings. However, this is inaccurate. The $625 billion of savings comes entirely from the lower caps compared to realistic projections that assume a drawdown in war spending, not from omitting war spending.

Second, during the floor debate on the amendment, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) mentioned the "war gimmick" in reference to the plan's spending cuts. The gimmick is claiming savings for drawing down war spending, even though the policy is already being carried out. While Ryan is correct that claiming the drawdown as savings is a gimmick, this budget did not do that. Indeed, in the two-page summary, there is no mention of the war drawdown, and it is not part of the savings claimed. Many budgets have used the war drawdown in a responsible way (including Ryan's) by putting in a fiscal plan and not claiming savings or using it to pay for new spending or tax cuts. The Cooper-LaTourette proposal followed that.

These claims are minor but worth clearing up. On war spending, the alternative resolution was responsible in reflecting the policy that is in place without making it a gimmick.