A Quick Look at Implications of the Debt Deal

Sarah Kliff from the Washington Post links to an important table today: what happens if the Supercommittee can’t come to an agreement i.e. the most likely scenario. The focus of her post is on its potential effect on entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; these items represent the lion’s share of the budget and are obviously going to be the focus of tense and potentially ugly discussions.

Of course as a Bureaucrat Jedi, my focus is on two other lines: discretionary non-defense and discretionary defense.These would be the lines that will directly affect you and me, and they aren’t pretty; in fact they paint a grim picture of a decade of tough discussions, priority setting, unfunded mandates, and “less with more”. In this sort of environment, budgeting becomes even more of a zero sum game: want a mission to Mars? Kiss airport repairs goodbye. Well budgeting theoretically works this way even in good times, there will be no having your cake and eating it too this decade.

From a wonky point of view I am already interested in how the Supercommittee will try and mete out alternatives; indeed, there is already concern that the Supercommittee will tread on the toes of existing appropriations committees. From a more realistic perspective, I’d start modeling off of this, as status quo seems more likely than Congressional action. I’m sure there’s an enterprising wonk out there who knows how discretionary non-defense is divided up by appropriations subcommittee right now, then extrapolate what that means for individual agencies. The question isn’t if we are going to tighten our belt, just how many notches we’ll need to carve.

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Dave Uejio

LOL, ok, I’ll give it another shot:

  1. As a result of the debt deal, there is a bipartisan “Supercommittee” to reduce the deficit over 10 years.
  2. To force action, the deal created a ticking time bomb with across the board cuts that will trigger if they are unable to come up with a better solution. (above)
  3. If the bomb goes off, then non-defense spending will be reduced by 325 billion dollars over 10 years.
  4. Congressional committees will decide which agencies get cut and by how much.
  5. This could lead to a decade of real bad for everyone in the government.

How’s that?