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President Obama to Propose Freeze in Non-Defense Discretionary Spending?

January 26, 2010

Jake Tapper reports that President Obama may be set to propose a freeze non-defense discretionary spending.  So what does that mean, and just how much are we talking about?:

In his budget for Fiscal Year 2011, to be presented on Monday, February 1, President Obama will propose a three-year hard freeze on non-security discretionary spending, to last from 2011 through 2013.

This will save $250 billion over the next decade, senior administration officials told reporters. By 2015, non-security discretionary spending will be at its lowest level as a component of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product in 50 years…

The administration is defining security-related discretionary spending – which will not be impacted by this freeze – as spending related to the Pentagon, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security, and spending related to international affairs…

This category – roughly one-seventh of the overall budget, or about 1/3rd of total discretionary spending — is generally what people think about when they say they want Washington, DC, to rein in spending, a senior administration official said. They don’t mean Medicare, Social Security, or defense spending, the official said.

Not talking about Social Security and Medicare?  Until we do talk about trying to reign in those programs in some form–either by cutting entitlements or finding innovative ways to increase revenues and reduce fraud, waste, and abuse–the problem of deficits and runaway spending will continue in perpetuity.

The bulk of the budget comes from automatic payments.  For those of you unfamiliar with that term, those are legally required budget outlays that must be funded yearly in accordance with a seemingly endless array of federal laws.  Cheif amongst these?  Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, which together account for nearly 45% of the federal budget.  These programs, at some point, must be addressed by the federal government in order to ensure the government is able to meet its obligations in the not-too-distant future.

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