In his press conference this morning the President seemed to indicated that the phantom war savings he has been pushing as a serious budget don't really count. Here's what he said near the beginning of his statement:
Over the past two years, I’ve signed into law about $1.4 trillion in
spending cuts. Two weeks ago, I signed into law more than $600 billion
in new revenue, by making sure the wealthiest Americans begin to pay
their fair share.
When you add the money that we’ll save in
interest payments on the debt, altogether that adds up to a total of
about $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the past two years, not
counting the $400 billion already saved from winding down the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan. [Emphasis added]
Quick background on this issue. The annual spending for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are part of the baseline budget. This means more than $100 billion a year is projected to be spent from now until the end of time even though everyone knows we won't need to spend that money since the wars are ending.
Putting reality aside, the President has been trying to pass the phantom war savings off as a serious cut since 2011. By claiming more than a trillion in cuts from this gimmick, the President can then demand more of the very real tax increases he wants on top earners. That's his idea of a balanced approach--fake cuts and real tax increases.
Since 2011 numerous budget watchers have pointed out that the war savings is just a gimmick. In fact the Washington Post's fact checker called it that last October. But the President has been undaunted. As recently as last month, fiscal cliff negotiator Tim Geithner was still pushing war savings as part of the budget deal. Here he is trying to explain the savings to Chris Wallace:
So that was the President's position last month, but today he seems to be acknowledging that war savings don't really count toward the $4 trillion required to avoid the next downgrade. At least he's not insisting that we count that money toward the goal. Maybe this is progress?