October 2, 2014

Posts on federal budget

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009 - 5:34 PM

There’s news from the Treasury Department today (monthly Treasury statement) on the federal budget deficit for the first quarter of fiscal year 2009 (i.e., 4th quarter of calendar year 2008). I guess this is what a year headed for a (way?-)more-than-a-trillion-dollars deficit looks like; AP reports:

The federal government already has run up a record deficit of $485.2 billion in just the first three months of the current budget year, the Treasury Department said Tuesday.

The deficit is on track to surpass $1 trillion for all of fiscal 2009 and some economists believe it could go much higher.

The deficit for December totaled $83.6 billion, a sharp deterioration from a year ago when the government managed a surplus of $48.3 billion…

All the red ink is occurring because of the massive spending on the $700 billion financial rescue program and a prolonged recession which has depressed tax revenues.

The imbalance from October through December is the highest on record for a first quarter and surpasses the...

Thursday, January 8, 2009 - 9:54 PM

This week we've heard more about what's likely to be in the mix in the next economic stimulus/recovery package.  We've learned that there are more tax cuts in the picture—this despite the skepticism expressed over the past few months about how effective another round of tax cuts would be in boosting consumption, given the already-mediocre marks  many economists gave them the last time around, and the current state of American consumers, who are now less than enthusiastic about even being labeled ”consumers.”

A Wall Street Journal story breaking the news about $300 billion of new tax proposals found surprise among some experts:

William Gale, a tax-policy analyst at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, said the scale of the whole package is larger than expected. He called the business offerings a true surprise, since most attention has been focused on the spending side of the equation, especially the hundreds of billions of dollars being discussed for infrastructure and aid to state and...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009 - 3:17 PM

The big story today is that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office updated their baseline estimate for the federal budget's ten-year outlook. Our analysis, based on their most recent data, shows that current policy trends could add $10.295 trillion to the national debt from 2010-2019. Note that the current national debt is $10.6 trillion, so this would double that in just 10 years!

The other big news from the CBO baseline release today is that they project this year's budget deficit (Fiscal Year 2009) will be $1.186 trillion (more than double the prior single year dollar record) or 8.3% of GDP--a post World War II high.

For over a decade, the Concord Coalition has taken CBO's estimates and made changes in order to produce a more "plausible" estimate based on current policy trends. These baselines are important tools on which to evaluate how proposed legislation effects the budget. Our press release today about the new CBO report and our analysis can be found here. For more information on Concord's plausible baseline...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 - 3:12 PM

To start out the new year, I want to call attention to a recent Washington Post Op-Ed by Neil Howe and Richard Jackson, the editors of the Concord Coalition's Facing Facts Quarterly.

The editorial highlights one of the fundamental problems the Concord Coalition was formed to call attention to--the aging of the population. Population aging is a function of longer life expectancy and lower birthrates. It is a phenomenon that tends to occur in countries throughout history as the economy in that country gets wealthier and more developed. The problem is that it is also correlated with declining economic growth as workforce participation eventually declines. There is even a suggestion in some research that this phenomenon is the number one explanatory factor when looking at the success of economic systems throughout history.

The Concord Coalition's primary concern with the aging of the population is that its resulting lower economic growth in the future will occur at the same time that the nation's entitlement programs, which are designed to provide benefits to retirees, will swell in size--increasing the burden on working age citizens. Furthermore, irresponsible...

Monday, December 15, 2008 - 3:15 PM

Although the report doesn’t speculate on the size of the potential cost savings that could be obtained from some of the reform proposals (most of which are not terribly comprehensive or economically “bold”–although elimination of the employer-provided health care tax exclusion would surely be politically “bold”), I found the discussion on pages 118-119 of the health care chapter most interesting:

Spending a rising share of income on health, as has occurred in the United States and other developed countries and is likely to continue occurring, makes economic sense as rising incomes increase the relative benefits of investing in health-care consumption to extend life…[H]ealth care consumption is a superior good…The large and growing size of health spending underscores the importance of ensuring that the sector functions efficiently and equitably.

Today I spoke at an event on Capitol Hill where the OECD’s Economic Survey of the United States was released.  (The policy brief, a condensed summary, is here.)  I was a discussant on the survey’s chapter on health care reform, which explains that the U.S. health...

Thursday, December 4, 2008 - 1:42 PM

Executive Director Bob Bixby has a timely (in light of today's Congressional hearings) Op-Ed in this morning's Washington Post that analogizes congressional pressure on the big three automakers to come up with a sustainable, long-term business model, to the pressure that should be put on Congress to come up with a similarly forward-looking plan for the federal budget.

Here are some excerpts:

After hearings last month to consider the plight of the Big Three automakers, Congress's warning was clear: no plan, no bailout. It was a tough-love message, but it rang a bit hollow coming from lawmakers who have no plan of their own to avoid a fiscal debacle that could be many times more serious than anything the automakers face...

In these circumstances, it is worth asking what might be demanded of Congress by a special guardian appointed to safeguard the interests of today's youth. A good place to start is the letter written to the automakers by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid...

Pelosi and Reid...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008 - 4:28 PM

Congress has been developing a stimulus plan in recent weeks which it hopes will provide a much needed boost to the ailing economy. There has been a tendency to pin those supporting a large stimulus plan against those individuals deemed to be “deficits hawks.”

There are two points to make about this discussion. First, such a characterization assumes there are currently “deficit hawks” who are standing in the way of economic stimulus because of their concern for the short-term deficit--an assumption I consider dubious and at the very least is not an accurate description that people could make of The Concord Coalition based on our recent media interviews or policy briefs.

The second point is that setting up positions in this “debate” implies that short-term stimulus and long-term fiscal responsibility are contradictory goals. They are not, and we have attempted to make that clear.

In our most recent issue brief, we highlighted the important roles of short-term stimulus aimed at increasing aggregate demand in the interim and budgeting rules (like PAYGO) aimed at improving our longer-term future. These two problems should not be treated the same:

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 2:24 PM

Even though my job as Policy Director means I spend a fair amount of time sitting at my desk and staring at my computer, I also get to play "in the field" giving chart talks or running budget exercises. Earlier this month, I conducted a "Principles and Priorities" exercise at American University, and had a a wonderful "teaching moment" where I was able to link the hypothetical budget simulation to perhaps the primary fiscal policy debate that will surround President-Elect Obama as his administration sets their priorities.

In the exercise, students divide into groups and act like special congressional committees designated with making budget choices. They pick choices in four areas: domestic discretionary spending, defense and national security spending, taxes and revenues, and entitlements. Groups can either cut programs or increase taxes to reduce the deficit, or spend more on programs they consider important, or cut taxes to increase the deficit. At the beginning of the exercise they are supposed to develop a target goal for the deficit and by the end they add up their choices to see how they did. Because we are an organization that stresses fiscal responsibility, the students tend to think the more they can do to lower the...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 - 12:41 PM

There is a good article in the New York Times today, as part of their "If Elected..." series, that tries valiantly to add up the candidates' taxing and spending promises with an emphasis on their deficit implications. As a budget policy analyst, I know how tough such a task is during an election campaign, and empathize with any reporter who attempts to do so.

What I try to keep remembering to tell members of the media as I go through the numbers with them, is that the numbers are certain to change, and the candidates and their advisors know that, but what really matters is the commitment to fiscal responsibility once in office and what flexibility they have left themselves with, after the campaign ends, to alter their plans. 

Sometimes plans change because campaigns are two-year long processes, and the plans a candidate designed at the beginning, might no longer be what can be written into legislation and enacted once the campaign ends. I think that has clearly happened in the last couple months with the crisis in the financial markets.

Unfortunately, more often than...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008 - 12:45 PM

Today, the Concord Coalition released our second issue brief during the general election. In this one, called “Fiscal Policy Beyond Election Day: Nine Challenges for ’09," we discuss how the reality of the nation’s current economic and fiscal transformation will affect the plans the presidential candidates have developed. Additionally, we propose that recent events, and the unrealsitic nature of the plans even before the financial crisis required massive government intervention, will require whoever becomes president to re-prioritize to fit current circumstances and to improve the well-being of future generations.

Our first issue brief looked more closely at the specifics of the candidate's taxing and spending plans and how by accepting currently policy trends as the baseline by which their plans should be judged, they were setting lower expectations for themselves than they should, and certainly lower expectations than the American public should...