December 22, 2014

Premature Pessimism Could Become Self-Fulfilling

  • The federal budget process is a mixture of rules, timelines and norms that work together to influence policy decisions. It shapes how the...

With the budget conference committee starting to meet this week, some political leaders seem to be thinking that the ideal “grand bargain” on the budget would be: Do nothing.

Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby warns that this could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In a blog post Monday, he concedes that “the prospects for a real grand bargain – one that actually makes some headway on solving our fiscal imbalance – are not looking good right now.” But he says it is particularly disappointing that two key members of Congress – House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid – seem to be “simply accepting the gridlocked status quo rather using their leading positions to figure out a better result.”

Ryan’s lament: “If we focus on some big, grand bargain then we’re going to focus on our differences and both sides are going to require that the other side compromises some core principle and then we’ll get nothing done. ”

As Bixby notes, “That’s a bit like saying elected officials can’t do a grand bargain because it would require a grand bargain.”

Reid, meanwhile, wants to turn the conversation away from Medicare and Social Security – even though those programs will be key drivers of future budget deficits.

Bixby says better advice for the budget conference committee has come from former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oakl.), who is a member of the conference committee. Conrad and Cole have emphasized that real progress on the budget will require compromises from both parties.