Um... Assuming they are actually decreasing the budgeted amounts for those programs though, it *does* count as actual savings though.
They're not. It was allocated monies for one time expenses that never got used.
Never got used by the programs they were allocated to. Money doesn't just sit there idle Joph. Surplus money in programs gets reallocated (see the section on intergovernmental debt I just wrote if you're unsure how this happens).
The fact that we ran a deficit last year means that that money was spent. Somewhere.
They didn't get the "savings" by lowering the CHIP budget or anything.
It means that the baseline funds available for reallocation to other unbudgeted projects is $38.5B lower, which means that's $38.5B dollars they don't have just sitting around to be spent without having to get approval to borrow money to pay for it. You are once again focusing on the individual programs and failing to see the larger picture. The objective here is to decrease the total amount of money we spend. This decreases that total amount (or at least the total amount budgeted ahead of time).
You get that before we borrow money and incur a deficit, we raid all those programs that have extra funds in them, right? Makes sense, doesn't it? You'd dip into the savings account to buy something before taking out a loan (or carrying debt on a credit card), right? Same thing here. And if your savings account is low you'll think harder about whether you really need that thing you're borrowing money for, wouldn't you? That's what this means. The actual amount of money the government has to spend is decreased.
If we were not already running a deficit each year, your argument would have some merit. Just as you might argue that borrowing money from one bank account and putting it into another doesn't matter as long as you don't end out spending more than you earn and having to carry a credit card balance either. But we are borrowing money each year. Thus, any amount we reduce from the amount that appears to be "free money" will (at least hopefully) reduce the amount of money we borrow.