While there is no dispute that the President’s budget request never achieves balance, the President is making a variety of claims about the amount of deficit reduction that would be achieved if Congress adopted his budget request. As the House Budget Committee has explained before, claims about deficit reduction are always highly dependent on reduction from what starting point (called a baseline in budget parlance).
In his Budget Message to Congress, the President claims his “Budget will cut the deficit by another $1.8 trillion over the next 10 years.” Unfortunately this claim doesn’t survive minimal scrutiny. The summary tables in the President’s own budget show this claim is false, even using his preferred assumptions. Table S-2 shows the “Effect of Budget Proposals on Projected Deficits” using the President’s assumptions. The projected deficit under the President’s adjusted baseline is $6.678 trillion over 10 years, and the projected deficit if his budget were adopted is $5.271 trillion, which means that even under the President’s accounting his budget only reduces the deficit over 10 years by a total of $1.407 trillion.
But even this reduced deficit reduction claim vastly overstates the progress the President’s budget makes in addressing the looming deficit and debt crisis. That’s because the President’s “adjusted baseline” has an inflated deficit. Instead of simply projecting current law, his “adjusted baseline” incorporates a variety of his policy proposals and assumes that we never end the war in Afghanistan. A policy neutral baseline shows that in fact, the President’s deficit reduction is a mere $119 billion over 10 years, with the net deficit reduction not beginning until four years after the President leaves office.