Inside the Beltway Math

Budget Cuts Pass By a Slim Margin (WaPo; front page, above the fold)

The sub-head is a punch line come to life: “Poor, Elderly and Students to Feel Pinch”

The House yesterday narrowly approved a contentious budget-cutting package that would save nearly $40 billion over five years by imposing substantial changes on programs including Medicaid, welfare, child support and student lending.

With its presidential signature all but assured, the bill represents the first effort in nearly a decade to try to *slow the growth* of entitlement programs, one that will be felt by millions of Americans. Women on welfare are likely to face longer hours of work, education or community service to qualify for their checks. Recipients of Medicaid can expect to face higher co-payments and deductibles, especially on expensive prescription drugs and emergency room visits for non-emergency care. More affluent seniors will find it far more difficult to qualify for Medicaid-covered nursing care. [Emphasis added]

This story is essentially a lie. These are not spending cuts but rather budgetary adjustments — which may or may not be appropriate — but to call them cuts is to go beyond disingenuous given the italicized text.

If you don’t follow me, here’s a math problem for you: Program X has a budget of $100 million and has been allotted an increase of 10 percent. If the increase is reduced to 5 percent, how much has Program X’s budget been cut?

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Leopold Stotch
About Leopold Stotch
“Dr. Leopold Stotch” was the pseudonym of political science professor then at a major research university inside the beltway. He has a PhD in International Relations. He contributed 165 pieces to OTB between November 2004 and February 2006.


  1. legion says:

    It depends on what the program’s supposed to accomplish. If $100 mil is supposed to fund 10,000 widgets this year, and due to various factors (inflation, gas prices driving up transportation costs, etc.) you’re going to need $120 mil to get the same number of widgets this year, and you only fund for $105 mil, then yeah – you just cut the program.

    Just because you’re slowing the growth of the program, doesn’t mean you’re slowing the growth of its costs…