Austerians’ Pound of Flesh

In one of those pieces of news (via WaPo’s Lori Montgomery, who’s apparently doing an occasional piece at Wonkblog these days) that galvanize something you kinda knew but hadn’t quite added up, the Senate Budget Committee conducted a review of deficit reduction measures taken since 2011, and concluded $3.3 trillion in money that would otherwise have been borrowed over the next ten years has been taken off the table by spending cuts and revenue increases.

What’s the ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases? Better than three-to-one, which shows the austerians have obtained their pound of flesh (though the percentage is a tad misleading because 21% of the total deficit reduction comes from avoided interest payments). Half the deficit reduction, moreover, comes from discretionary spending while only 7% comes from mandatory programs.

That these numbers could have been a lot worse is comforting, but only if you forget what might have been done for the economy if Washington hadn’t spent most of the last three years focused on deficit reduction.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.