The incredible shrinking spending cuts

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING SPENDING CUTS…. The House Republicans’ “Pledge to America” vowed to slash $100 billion from the budget in the first year. The promise didn’t last — the day before being sworn in, the GOP leadership abandoned the idea, deeming it unrealistic given the abbreviated calendar for the fiscal year.

For a while, the new number being bandied about was about $60 billion in cuts. Yesterday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released his vision of proposed cuts totaling $32 billion.

I’m starting to get the impression Republicans find it easier to talk about these issues than actually follow through on them.

What’s more, Pat Garofalo noted that Ryan’s proposal is based on “phantom” spending cuts. Why “phantom”? Because the spending plan doesn’t actually make cuts to the existing budget, but rather, to the White House’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which Congress never got around to passing. Tim Fernholz explained yesterday:

A more accurate perspective on the cuts is to compare them to current spending, which rests at approximately 2010 levels. By that measure, laid out by the House Appropriations Committee, the defense budget would actually expand by $9.6 billion, or about 2 percent — and that wouldn’t include money for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. All told, the GOP would be cutting about $32 billion from both domestic and security spending — a reduction of 3 percent from 2010, with most of the cuts coming out of domestic programs.

These cuts weren’t met with a friendly reception from Senate Democrats, who called them “unworkable,” and they’re already drawing fire from the House Republican Study Committee, which is demanding more widespread cuts.

Just for context, let’s also note that Congress will have to reach some sort of spending deal by March 4 or the government shuts down. A temporary extension seems fairly likely, but would necessarily make the cuts from the House GOP that much smaller for the rest of the fiscal year, and that much further from the “Pledge” promise.

Dear Republican House leaders: I told you governing was hard.