Something vague or illusory used to give the appearance that a budget is properly balanced. Though the phrase originated with the use of actual asterisks on budgetary documents during Ronald Reagan's presidency, it is now applied to other methods of budgetary obfuscation as well. The only way that the government can increase its spending without also increasing taxes is through magic asterisks, and you know it. That vaguely titled category is just a magic asterisk, and I refuse to sign off on anything until I hear what exactly these cuts entail.
See also: magic
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.