NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Many 2011 Federal Budget Cuts Had Little Real World Effect

February 12, 2013

Late on the night of April 8, 2011, Washington's leaders announced that they'd just done something extraordinary. They had agreed to cut the federal budget -- and cut it big. Indeed, the parties had agreed to slash $37.8 billion: more than the budgets of the Labor and Commerce departments, combined. Nearly two years later, however, these landmark budget cuts have fallen far short of their promises, says the Washington Post.

In the real world, in fact, many of Washington's "cuts" cut nothing at all.

  • The Transportation Department got credit for "cutting" a $280 million tunnel that had been canceled six months earlier.
  • It also "cut" a $375,000 road project that had been created by a legislative typo, on a road that did not exist.
  • At the Census Bureau, officials got credit for a whopping $6 billion cut, simply for obeying the calendar. They promised not to hold the expensive 2010 census again in 2011.
  • Today, an examination of 12 of the largest cuts shows that, thanks in part to these gimmicks, federal agencies absorbed $23 billion in reductions without losing a single employee.

Now the failures of that 2011 bill have come back to haunt the leaders who crafted it. Disillusionment with that bill has persuaded many conservatives to reject a line-by-line, program-by-program approach to cutting the budget.

Instead, many have embraced the sequester, a looming $85 billion across-the-board cut set to take effect March 1. Obama and GOP leaders have said they don't like the idea: the sequester is a "dumb cut," in Washington parlance, which would cut the government's best ideas along with its worst without regard to merit.

But at least, conservatives say, you can trust that this one is for real.

Source: David A. Fahrenthold, "Many 2011 Federal Budget Cuts Had Little Real World Effect," Washington Post, February 9, 2013.


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