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The 10-year-window

December 18, 2013 - Jim Anderson
One of my new pet peeves is “10-year budget speak.”

Congress often examines spending through a standard 10-year budget window. Which is fine, I suppose.

The problem comes when politicians and talking heads discuss budget issues without clarifying whether they’re talking about a single year or 10.

For instance, here’s U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Dec. 15, discussing the recent budget agreement.

“... it has $85 billion of savings from what we call mandatory spending, the autopilot that Congress all too often ignores, to pay for $63 billion of sequester relief, half of which goes to defense, which is a big concern of many Republicans.”

Huh? Is he talking about a single year or 10?

Actually. Both. Sort of.

The $85 billion in savings is over the next decade — the popular 10-year budget window.

But the $63 billion in sequester relief — an increase in spending or an aversion of cuts depending on how you look at it — that’s over the next two years.

The budget deal passed by the House and nearing final passage in the Senate increases deficits in 2014 and 2015 but reduces them over 10 years by a total of $23 billion, according to Ryan’s math.

Ryan is by no means the only culprit in “10-year budget speak.”

Pretty much all politicians and pundits adopt or discard the 10-year window to fit their argument of the moment.

In news stories, you’ll most always find explanations of the 10-year window. But in the give-and-take of broadcast interviews and debates, it sure is easy to get lost.



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