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The budget compromise promises savings of $27.5 billion in defense alone. But that number is suspect because it assumes the Pentagon will spend less than it is entitled to. If the Pentagon does not oblige, savings could be slashed by as much as $6 billion. No major weapons system is canceled under the compromise, suggesting that military maintenance and operations would have to be sacrificed if the lower spending target were to be met.
Now that the White House and Hill leadership have apparently compromised by agreeing not to make meaningful cuts in either Social Security or defense, congressional bookkeeping will almost surely become even more imaginative. Asked if the House budget was not fashioned from "smoke and mirrors," Democrat Vic Fazio of California responded not by answering, but by gloating over the G.O.P retreat on Social Security cuts. Never mind that the deficit will go on growing; just think of the political profits. Chuckled Fazio: "They'll be sucking our smoke." --By Evan Thomas. Reported by Sam Allis and Christopher Redman/Washington