- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Last week, House Republican leaders had to postpone a vote because they could not muster a majority for a plan that would reduce the growth of federal spending by $50 billion over five years. To put this figure in perspective, consider the fact that the federal government is on track to spend more than $14.3 trillion from 2006 through 2010, or an average of nearly $3 trillion per year. Thus, the $50 billion figure amounts to less than 35 cents for each $100 the federal government will spend over the next five years.

Relative to the $2.47 trillion that was spent in the just-completed 2005 fiscal year, average annual spending (2006-10) will be about $400 billion higher. Moreover, the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline projected spending for 2010 ($3.13 trillion) would be $660 billion higher than 2005 spending. Looked at another way, the $50 billion in reduced spending amounts to 2.5 percent of the cumulative $2 trillion in increased spending that will occur over the next five years, compared to 2005.

To be sure, the $50 billion in spending cuts was to apply to mandatory spending programs, which currently account for about 54 percent of total federal spending. But this is the area where spending has exploded in recent decades. Spending on mandatory programs has increased by 99 percent since 1993 and by more than 400 percent since 1980.

Mandatory spending programs include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, agriculture subsidies, food stamps, family support and child-nutrition programs, refundable earned-income and child tax credits, student-loan subsidies, Supplemental Security Income, federal-employee and military retirement plans, veterans benefits, unemployment compensation and other entitlement programs. The CBO baseline projects that annual mandatory spending, including offsetting receipts such as Medicare premiums paid by beneficiaries, will increase by nearly a third over the next five years. Specifically, the CBO projects that annual mandatory spending will increase by more than $400 billion, rising from $1.33 trillion in 2005 to $1.74 trillion in 2010. CBO projections also reveal that average annual mandatory spending will be $235 billion per year higher (2006-10) than it was in 2005. Thus, if the House were to pass the $50 billion in mandatory spending restraint over five years, then annual mandatory spending will still be an average of $225 billion higher each year than it was in 2005.

As recently as March, the House passed a blueprint that would reduce the growth of mandatory spending programs by $69 billion over five years. A compromise with the Senate reduced that figure to $35 billion. In response to the open-ended, Katrina-related spending explosion in recent weeks, fiscal conservatives in the House, led by the Republican Study Committee, rightly demanded greater spending restraint in other areas. The $50 billion over five years would be a minimal downpayment.

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