Remember the big fight about the "deficit reduction" package? Well, it will not reduce the deficit. In fact, the deficit will grow - despite such steps as adding a 5-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax.
Worse, the package also changed the Gramm-Rudman law so that it eliminates pressure on Congress to really reduce the deficit - at least until the 1992 presidential elections are over.Stanley Collender, author of "Guide to the Federal Budget," told the Deseret News that the sneakiness, deception and wide-ranging changes he has found in that deficit package remind him of George Orwell's "1984."
In that novel, the country of Oceana led by Big Brother was constantly at war to explain shortages and its autocratic rule. Occasionally, it switched enemies without telling anyone. It even altered newspapers in archives so the new enemy appeared to have always been the old enemy.
Collender said the few people who drafted the deficit package "changed the enemy and didn't tell anyone. The enemy was the deficit. Now it is cutting spending, or at least preventing an increase in what we otherwise would have spent. Does anyone remember any debate on this? There was none."
He noted that the night the bill passed the House, only one copy of the massive volume was available for members to inspect on the floor - so most did not understand what they passed.
It was often billed in the press as a $500 billion deficit reduction over five years that would cut $42.7 billion the first year.
It doesn't cut the deficit by $42.7 billion. It merely cuts what the deficit would otherwise have grow to without the law by that amount.
The deficit will actually increase from $220.4 billion in 1990 to $295 billion in 1991 and $308.7 billion in 1992, according to Senate Budget Committee minority staff estimates.
But the deficit could also be much higher than that. For example, all costs of Operation Deseret Shield have been exempted - but will be real and large, nonetheless.
William Hoagland, a staffer on the Senate Budget Committee, said that surprises many members. He was in Japan giving a briefing on the deficit when a member of Congress with him confided, "I didn't know I voted for a deficit increase."
Even more serious is the way the new package changes the budget process and the Gramm-Rudman law - and eliminates any legal pressure for deficit reduction.
Gramm-Rudman set firm deficit-reduction targets. If they were not met, automatic spending cuts across-the-board - called sequesters - were triggered. Threats of them and resulting layoffs and service cuts at home were what prompted Congress to take whatever deficit-cutting steps it made in recent years.
But the new package essentially eliminates those threatened massive, government-wide sequesters by setting easier deficit targets.
For example, instead of the old Gramm-Rudman target of reducing the deficit to $64 billion in 1991, the new package sets a target to keep the deficit smaller than $327 billion - a much easier task. In fact, that should be no trouble at all.
The bill sets some new caps for defense, domestic and foreign spending. But if they are breached, then only "mini-sequesters" in those areas would hit. The difference in magnitude between them and the big Gramm-Rudman sequesters is like comparing global nuclear war to a terrorist attack.
If America doesn't scream, the deficit will continue to grow.