Obama often claims that his plan has the “balanced approach” of the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission proposal, but the Simpson-Bowles plan is actually quite different, calling for tough spending cuts and substantial tax reforms — not the faux proposals contained in the president’s budget.
For instance, Simpson-Bowles envisioned $4 trillion in debt reduction over nine years; the president’s plan would spread the cuts over 10 years. A good chunk of the savings from deficit reduction piles up in that last year. When the two plans are compared apples to apples, Simpson-Bowles yields about $6.6 trillion in deficit reduction — 50 percent more than Obama’s plan.
Obama’s $4 trillion figure, for instance, includes counting some $1 trillion in cuts reached a year ago in budget negotiations with Congress. So no matter who is the president, the savings are already in the bank.
Moreover, the administration is also counting $848 billion in phantom savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the administration had long made clear those wars would end.
In other words, by projecting war spending far in the future, the administration is able to claim credit for saving money it never intended to spend. (Imagine someone borrowing $50,000 a year for college—and then declaring that they have an extra $500,000 to spend over the next decade once they graduate.)
Independent budget analysts were not impressed and called the maneuver “a major budget gimmick.”