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The Devil Is In The Details: Budget Cuts Softened By 'Accounting Gimmicks'

As we learn more about just where the $38 billion in fiscal year 2011 federal budget cuts will come from, news stories are making it appear that the spending reductions will be less historic than both the White House and congressional leaders from both parties have been advertising.

The Associated Press, for example, writes this morning that "last week's hard-won agreement to avoid a government shutdown and cut federal spending by $38 billion significantly eased the fiscal pain by pruning money left over from previous years, using accounting sleight of hand and going after programs President Obama had targeted anyway."

Politico says that "when it comes to the most crucial domestic battlegrounds, the cuts are a far cry from what House Republicans demanded. Indeed, the president will come out of the fight with more money to implement his education and Wall Street reforms."

Bloomberg News notes that "the $38 billion in cuts includes $12 billion in reductions that had already been approved as part of previous stopgap bills funding the government."

And The Washington Postreports that some of the trims "are not quite what they seem, and officials said they would not necessarily result in lost jobs or service cutbacks. In several cases, what look like large reductions are actually accounting gimmicks."

USA Today's On Politics blog headlines its post with the news that "Budget Deal Funds Health Care Law, NPR."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.