Compared to What?
By Arnold Kling
So it is clear that the budget has come a long way from the Administration’s first spending proposal–about half way to the House proposal–and it was accomplished without any tax increases. Some are disappointed that Washington did not do more, but there is no question that this represents a very big shift, even though the heavy lifting will go on with a good debate in the upcoming elections.
Taylor compares the 10-year path of spending relative to GDP with the path implied by the budget submitted by President Obama. However, that budget was voted down, so I am not sure why it is a relevant comparison.
Another comparison would be with the Bowles-Simpson plan. That plan held spending to about 21 percent of GDP, and this plan never gets spending that low. That plan took on entitlements (admittedly without getting into specifics) and this plan does not.
I think it is reasonable to worry that the spending levels in this plan will become a floor rather than a ceiling. This is particularly likely to be the case if the narrative for the agreement becomes “The Tea Party won, and the left lost.” That narrative implies that spending could not possibly be cut further in a responsible way.
Baseball executive Bill Veeck, in Veeck as in Wreck, praised Horace Stoneham for appearing to lose negotiations while getting what he wanted. I think that is what the left accomplished in this case. Relative to the Bowles-Simpson baseline, which is where centrists on both sides thought that the budget should head, it was not the crazies on the right who were able to move the needle. It was the crazies on the left.