Perhaps the most difficult policy question Concord has been discussing with the public, the media, and members of Congress, is what to do about current large budget deficits given the lingering effect of a deep recession and projections for future debt levels due to population aging and rising health care costs. Does working on one problem preclude working on the other? The answer is no.
The difficulty is that many politicians and news organizations often cast deficit debates as a dichotomy: You either care about them or you don’t.
But this is rarely accurate. The fact that the two of us, who have philosophical differences on the proper role of government, find much to agree on about deficits is a testament to the importance of dropping this useless dichotomy and finally talking about deficits in a reasonable way.
Though a concern, most of the recent short-term rise in the deficit is...
"It isn't fiscally irresponsible to raise the debt limit, I think it would be rather irresponsible not to raise the debt limit because we have already incurred the bill."
That quote, from Concord executive director Bob Bixby, is one of many from our new videos highlighting some of the key points driving fiscal discussions in Washington.
We recorded the videos because the Senate is set to begin debate on increasing the debt ceiling while all of Congress awaits the President's budget proposal, which will purportedly contain the Administration's ideas for how to reduce the country's budget deficits.
The first shows a discussion about the basics behind increasing the debt limit and how there are a few key budget process reforms tied to fiscal responsibility that have become part of the debate as the Senate approaches a difficult vote. We talk about the possible Senate amendments...
It’s a little amusing to see how badly the idea of a bipartisan fiscal commission has frightened some partisans at both ends of the political spectrum. That alone indicates the idea may have merit.
Some skeptics, of course, doubt that a special bipartisan panel would have any hope of success in steering the government onto a more responsible fiscal course. And there’s no question that this would be a very tough assignment.
But the strident opposition to a bipartisan commission from some critics on both the right and the left is rooted in fears that such a panel might actually succeed. They describe commission proposals in conspiratorial terms, as though serious bipartisan planning for the nation’s future would be merely a cover for shady plots to sneak reprehensible policies past Congress and the American public. Oh, the deceit of it all...
The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently ran an editorial conceding that “current federal commitments are unsustainable, starting with $37 trillion in unfunded Medicare liabilities.”
Yet the editorial ruled out a bipartisan commission that could tackle this...
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress got a lot of good advice recently when representatives of The Concord Coalition’s fiscal advisory councils visited Capitol Hill to present their recommendations.
The basic message: Elected officials must make some dramatic changes to put the country on a more responsible fiscal course, protect our economic future and avoid saddling our children and grandchildren with massive debt.
Advisory council members from across the country -- Atlanta, Iowa, Milwaukee, Northern California and Philadelphia -- met with members of Congress and their staffs as part of The Concord Coalition’s National Conference of Fiscal Stewardship this month in Washington. The Fiscal Advisory Council of Northern Virginia had already met with several members of Congress in the fall. Representatives from the University of Denver, where the Fiscal Stewardship Project featured a special student engagement initiative this year, also attended the conference and met with elected officials.
In the conference’s opening...
For the last few weeks, members of Congress have been increasingly pushing for a bipartisan commission to tackle the nation's fiscal challenges. The impetus has been the need to raise the debt limit as the national debt rapidly approaches the $12 trillion statutory ceiling. Because legislation to raise the debt limit is must-pass, lawmakers are trying to tie commission creation to the legislative language. Senator Evan Bayh highlighted this issue in a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, which was co-signed by nine additional senators. The Blue Dog coalition of Democrats in the House also recently announced their support for a commission.
Last week, Budget Committee Chairman Senator Kent Conrad held...
I spent much of the last week in San Francisco assisting our Northern California Fiscal Advisory Council in their discussions of the possible solutions to the country's fiscal challenges. While we spent quite a bit of time talking about health care reform and the challenges of health care cost control, questions kept coming up about the national debt and foreign holdings of that debt, and the possibilities for inflation because of the current economic situation and whether there was a long-term inflation risk because of our indebtedness.
We are often asked about these topics in our grassroots conversations. However, they are incredibly complex and talking through them is difficult. So, for now, I can let a couple items I read recently speak for me.
The first is the text of a speech given by the President of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, Janet Yellen. In it, she discusses the still quite troubled state of the economy, the somewhat remote chances for inflation in the near-term due to lasting high unemployment, and the Fed's commitment to preventing inflation.
The second is an...
The first definition of “plausible” on dictionary.com is:
having an appearance of truth or reason; seemingly worthy of approval or acceptance; credible; believable: a plausible excuse; a plausible plot.
Note that it doesn’t say “likely” or “probable”–it connotes the notion of possibility not probability. I bring this up because many folks, especially the media, want to interpret the “Concord Coalition Plausible Baseline” as our best forecast of what the fiscal outlook will turn out to be. No, we’re not saying that’s the most likely outcome; we’re saying that’s a plausible, possible outcome. And it’s a worst-case scenario, because that’s what we do at Concord: we warn about the possible really bad outcomes if we don’t start making more responsible choices–because we don’t want them to happen.
On Saturday's front page of the Washington Post...
Perhaps even more than most of Concord’s Fiscal Wake-Up Tour programs, the one in Maine this week underscored the need for a really big alarm clock.
The recession has sliced into the government's revenue while putting its spending on steroids. Concord Executive Director Robert L. Bixby offered the Wake-Up Tour audience of more than 200 in Kennebunkport a troubling factoid: last month’s federal deficit of $180 billion was larger than the deficit for all of 2007.
And on the same day, the Obama administration released a grim projection of $9 trillion in deficits over the next decade, $2 trillion higher than its previous estimate. When this was reported in Kennebunkport, fretful murmurs swept through the room.
Even the $9 trillion figure is probably too optimistic, according to Concord’s analysis. So to borrow an analogy from David M. Walker, president and CEO of The Peter G. Peterson Foundation: Watch out for the "tsunami" that’s on the way.
Then there’s the current status of the health care debate: High interest in new government services and assistance, considerably less enthusiasm for proposals to pay for them. And not all that...
Throughout the day, Concord will be releasing new items related to today's budget numbers released by the CBO and OMB.
For immediate reactions, check out our Twitter feed.
A press release is in the works (it is up now--JG), but for now a few interesting statistics: