America is staggering under $34 trillion in debt and persistent, cavernous deficits. Yet progressives in the White House and Congress, even in the post-COVID era, want to continue spending at exorbitant levels. 

Conservatives running the U.S. House, led by Speaker Mike Johnson, cut a deal that slows spending relative to 2021–2022, when progressives ran both chambers. However, the budget deal is unlikely to cut our debt.

The topline budget constitutes $1.590 trillion, including $886 billion in defense spending and $704 billion in nondefense discretionary spending. But this amount also doesn’t include some agreed-upon additional spending that brings the total to roughly $1.66 trillion. The Wall Street Journal editorial board explains:

The rub is that Mr. McCarthy and the White House negotiated several side deals that increased domestic spending by an additional $69 billion. While that number remains, Mr. Johnson managed to offset $16 billion with other cuts. Democrats agreed to surrender $10 billion more of their Internal Revenue Service fillip, bringing that total to $20 billion in fiscal 2024. Another $6.1 billion will come out of unspent COVID-era funds.

Overall, domestic discretionary spending remains essentially flat, while defense dollars increase by roughly 3%. That breaks the Democrats’ longtime demand for parity between defense and social welfare spending. Mr. Johnson’s team also managed to kill several gimmicks that threatened to make emergency spending and changes to entitlement accounting part of the permanent budget baseline.

Ending budget gimmicks is one bright spot in this deal. Repealing another $20 billion in funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is another. As we’ve reported, Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act granted the IRS $80 billion to hire 87,000 new agents for tax enforcement. Conservatives clawed back about $20 billion of that in the debt-ceiling deal in 2023.

This deal would slash the new IRS funding to just half. The IRS has been aggressively going after Americans with tax audits. According to research with the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, low-income families in 2022 were far more likely than millionaires to be audited. NPR reported, “A study that included scholars and researchers from the Treasury Department finds Black Americans are three times more likely to be audited.”

While this deal makes strides and is a better approach than the unrestrained binge spending seen during prior years, Speaker Johnson should keep pushing for a deal that actually cuts our debt rather than merely slowing its expansion.