Are the White House’s war savings ‘fake’?

at 11:34 AM ET, 09/21/2011

The Center for American Progress made a pie chart out of the president’s deficit-reduction plan:

I’ll add one point: There’s been a lot of talk about how the proposal’s war savings are “fake.” When people say a particular source of budget savings is fake, they tend to mean that the money won’t appear. In this case, they quite confusingly mean the opposite: The money is sure to appear whether President Obama’s proposal passes into law or not. We’re pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan one way or the other, and it’s only due to a quirk of the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring process that those savings aren’t already reflected in the budget.

But that means that more than a trillion dollars of our projected deficit is “fake.” That money can’t be real on one side of the ledger and fake on the other. In general, this mostly speaks to the flaws of talking about deficits in terms of dollar figures rather than debt-to-GDP ratios.

The real question for the president’s plan — or any plan — is whether it stabilizes the debt-to-GDP ratio at an acceptable level. If so, then it’s good enough. If not, then it’s not. That’s what the market cares about, and that’s what we should care about. According to the White House’s projections, their plan will leave debt-to-GDP at slightly above 70 percent in 2012.

 
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