Joe Scarborough appears to agree with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on this point, too. Scarborough introduces Cantor by noting that real and significant deficit reduction cannot be accomplished without fundamental changes to federal entitlement programs, which is really a matter of basic math. Obama tried to squeeze past the entitlement debate with a single reference to Social Security reform, but otherwise completely punted on the results from his own debt commission. Cantor says that the US needs more political courage and leadership if we expect to right the fiscal ship:
Obama proposed a five-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending. That accounts for around $450 billion in a $3.8 trillion budget, which has a deficit of $1.5 trillion. Obama claimed in his speech last night that a freeze in this spending would save $400 billion over the next decade, but that comes from simply eliminating the discretionary spending increases Obama himself projected over that period. It doesn’t “save” money in any sense except the Beltway definition of savings through decreases in projected spending increases.
Besides, $40 billion of savings a year against projected deficits of over a trillion dollars each of the next ten years (on average) leaves 96% of the deficits in place. That’s not even a good start; it’s barely even symbolic.
The only ways to end the deficits are through massive reforms of mandatory spending to get to the $2.4 trillion in spending it represents, as well as the discretionary spending on security that accounts for almost another trillion dollars. Until those are on the table, deficit reduction talk is not just cheap, but transparent.