If history is any guide, we are about to hear scores of scare stories about the harm caused by the spending reductions in the 2011 budget resolution (H.R.1) passed by the House early this morning. Maybe you’ve already heard how the budget threatens the “daily operations of National Weather Service.” In assessing these claims, it is very important to recognize and to emphasize that in 2009-10 we had an unprecedented binge of federal spending. The simplest way to understand the proposed budget is that it largely (not completely) undoes this two-year binge and brings spending back to about what agencies had to spend in 2008. If the government budget was enough for federal agencies—such as the Weather Service—to operate in 2008, then how can one claim that they cannot operate with roughly the same budget now?
The two charts help illustrate this. They focus on the non-defense non-security discretionary part of the budget, which has been the focus of the 2011 budget debate so far. Of course the other parts of the budget must be addressed starting with the 2012 budget, but if we cannot have a fact-based principles-based discussion of the 2011 budget, it will be virtually impossible to resolve the longer term issues.