Large Spending Cuts Come When Wars End

The White House wants everyone to know that the deal President Obama cut with Speaker Boehner over the weekend counts as "the largest annual spending cut in our history." That's as measured in total dollars, of course. The cuts account for less than 1 percent of the government's overall spending and can't compete with massive cutbacks after World War I or World War II, when spending decreased by fewer dollars but in leaps and bounds as a percentage of the budget.

In theory, the Iraq War is ending, but we are still increasing spending on defense, albeit at a slower rate. But the government still needs to spend money to save money on Iraq, and the White House reported that "we avoided deep cuts in international programs that, among other things, threaten our transition out of Iraq."

As Think Progress points out, the U.S. is spending almost twice as much as it was on defense a decade ago, when we were already spending a lot on defense. It's mind-boggling to think about what would have happened if we had spent even a fraction of that money on clean-energy investments instead. Republicans who want to draw down spending might consider the time-honored tradition of ending a war and dramatically cutting defense budgets. It'll be faster than chipping away at housing-assistance programs, anyway.