April 19, 2014

Super Committee Urged to ‘Go Big’

  • The national debt has grown significantly in recent years due to rising annual deficits. A deficit occurs in any year the government spends more...

The new congressional  “super committee” meets today amid growing pressure from various quarters to look for ways to encourage economic growth while aiming well beyond its assigned goal of $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction.

Washington’s debt limit law this summer created the 12-member panel, which is supposed to recommend proposals to Congress by late November. The panel held its first meeting last week, with opening statements in which lawmakers emphasized the importance and urgency of their assignment.

The Concord Coalition has urged the committee to take a comprehensive approach, building on the recommendations from the President’s fiscal commission, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force, the Senate’s “Gang of Six” and other bipartisan groups.

Others have also called for the panel to “go big” in its recommendations. Dozens of business executives, budget experts and former government officials, including the co-chairs of the President’s fiscal commission, sounded this theme Monday in a letter to the super committee. Last week The Washington Post reported that more than two dozen senators from both parties met privately to discuss ways to support more aggressive deficit reduction.

At a super committee hearing today, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf warned that if current policies remain in place in the years ahead, "the aging of the population and the rising cost of health care will boost federal spending, as a share of the economy, well above the amount of revenues that the federal government has collected in the past."

The committee may also be able to draw on testimony about tax reform before the House Budget Committee on Wednesday. Among those appearing before that panel will be Diane Lim Rogers, Concord’s chief economist and a strong advocate of tax reforms that can both raise revenue and encourage economic growth.

The CBO on Monday estimated that the debt limit deal’s automatic “trigger” cuts -- which would take effect if the super committee process fails -- would save $1.1 trillion over 10 years, down from the $1.2 trillion originally envisioned. The reasons: Some savings would be delayed beyond 2021, some cuts would result in more spending elsewhere, and debt service costs would be higher than previously estimated.