Potential cuts, according to ideas put forward this year by Republicans within the House Budget Committee, could include canceling stimulus projects for which money hasn't yet been committed, freezing federal salaries temporarily, or hiring only one federal worker for every two who retire.
Supporters of a reduction in federal spending fall into two camps: those who doubt that initial rounds of spending stimulus have helped and those who say the economy is in a different place from where it was 18 months ago, with less need of temporary stimulus today and more need for fiscal discipline.
Spending cuts could help signal that Washington policymakers are starting to get serious about tackling America's long-term fiscal challenge – a persistent gap between federal spending and revenues.
Boosters of this idea also say that spending cuts might free up resources that would be used more efficiently by the private sector. "The economy will recover very nicely," albeit gradually, under Boehner's plan, predicts economist J.D. Foster at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington.
The case for spending cuts is partly an expression of doubt about the effectiveness of traditional stimulus via deficit spending. Researchers, including Harvard University's Robert Barro, have published studies suggesting that increased spending serves mainly to shift money around within the economy, while doing relatively little to expand the gross domestic product.
The case against spending cuts