Getting to Trillions

by Yuval Levin
In discussing John Boehner’s statement yesterday that in any debt ceiling deal House Republicans would demand cuts at least equal to the amount by which the ceiling is raised, Politico’s Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan say “But without changes to Medicare — which will cost $562 billion this year and is projected to soar to more than $900 billion by 2020 — it may be hard to reach Boehner’s goal of ‘trillions’ in spending cuts.”
Well, there certainly ought to be some reforms of Medicare but it’s not really true that you couldn’t reach past a trillion without them, especially if—as the Wall Street Journal reports this morning, citing Boehner’s staff, “those cuts would have to be scored as real by the Congressional Budget Office over a five-year budget window.” In fact, House Republicans just recently voted for a budget that CBO scored as cutting $1.8 trillion from the baseline over the next five years without cutting Medicare (since its Medicare reform would not begin for 10 years).
Of course if even that is too steep for the president, he could always ask for a smaller increase in the debt ceiling.

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