Negotiators tempted by gimmickry in budget talks

By ANDREW TAYLOR | June 22, 2011 | 5:30 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Negotiators seeking to carve trillions of dollars from the federal deficit are facing temptation to use iffy assumptions and outright gimmickry to exaggerate the size of spending cuts that would accompany any increase in the government's ability to borrow more money.

With both sides reluctant to abandon long-held positions on tax cuts and spending, those watching the talks being led by Vice President Joe Biden are on the lookout for a familiar set of accounting tricks.

Republicans are against tax increases, Democrats oppose cutting benefit programs like Medicare. The most obvious options available to negotiators are to claim inflated savings from troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan and to have budget savings pile up over 12 years or so rather than the 10 years that is typical when drafting budgets.