When I wrote my two earlier posts on budget cutting, I was specifically writing about cuts to annual domestic discretionary spending. Nevertheless, it IS true that some one-time, non-annual discretionary funds are available for savings. Never let it be said that I won’t admit error or, in this case, confusion that might look like error to those not as immersed in budgetary categories and subcategories as I have been at various times. All of which is to say that I do entirely endorse the idea of the following move by freshman Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin:
According to the White House’ own recent estimates, $168 billion of the ‘emergency funding’ still remains unspent with up to $7 billion in unobligated funds. The RESET Act would simply rescind the unobligated funds and send them back to the U.S. Treasury for deficit reduction.
To be clear, Duffy is not right here trying to rescind the $168 billion; he is merely trying to rescind the $7 billion that hasn’t even been obligated. I would go even farther and try to rescind as much of the $168 billion in one-time funds that are still rescindable — a category subject to technical considerations even I don’t fully understand (because some funds that ARE obligated, but are not yet spent, are nevertheless so far along the pipeline — signed contracts, etc. — that they can’t really be rescinded). This procedural stuff can get pretty complicated.
Overall, columnist Deroy Murdock reports this:
This fiscal year’s federal budget contains $703,128,000,000 in “unobligated balances.” Thus, more than $703 billion languishes in department, agency, and program ledgers. This includes $12.2 billion unspent at the Agriculture Department, $16.4 billion at Labor, $25.2 billion at Housing and Urban Development, $71.4 billion at Defense, and $309.1 billion at Treasury. While unspent obligated money must be stewarded for specific purposes for up to five years, these unobligated funds, “have not yet been committed by contract or other legally binding action by the government.”
Again, these are funds that exist in some senses on paper anyway. Officially taking them back would NOT actually reduce the deficit or the debt. But it WOULD make sure that they aren’t actually spent at some future time. I wholeheartedly endorse the effort, discussed by Murdock, led by Sen. Tom Coburn, to unobligate these funds.
If you take back all the unobligated funds, and also rescind some of the unspent stimulus funds, it is EASILY doable for Congress to “save” well over $100 billion, on paper, in the current fiscal year. I absolutely approve of that effort. It’s not the same category of funds that I was talking about in my two earlier posts, but if some of the readers who criticized me had read stories about huge potential savings that included these other categories of discretionary spending, then they would have been right about the achievabilty of such savings. If that is what they were saying, I’m on their side entirely.
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