September 3, 2014

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Monday, July 26, 2010 - 10:14 AM

Below are several developments we have been following since the last edition of the Washington Budget Report (sign up here) was published.

COMMITTEES REPORT ADDITIONAL FY 2011 APPROPRIATIONS BILLS:  Last week the House Appropriations Committee continued to make progress on the FY 2011 bills.  The full committee reported the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill as well as the Transportation- Housing and Urban Development bill.  Both bills are expected...

Monday, July 19, 2010 - 3:51 PM

Last week President Obama nominated Jacob “Jack” Lew to be the new head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), replacing Peter Orszag, who is stepping down at the end of July. OMB is primarily responsible for developing the President’s budget.

If confirmed by the Senate, as expected, Lew will become OMB director for the second time. He served as President Clinton’s director from 1998 through the end of the Clinton administration in 2001.

While Lew is familiar with the job, the budget picture has changed considerably. Lew was OMB director during the only four years of budget surpluses since the late 1960’s. He was also a key negotiator on the bipartisan balanced budget agreement in 1997. Now the budget environment is even more partisan and the country is experiencing the largest deficits since the end of World War II.

The change in OMB leadership provides an opportunity to review the changes that have taken place since Lew’s last stint as budget director and also gives us another chance to review the major decisions looming for the federal budget.

The final budget presented by Lew for the Clinton administration in February of 2000 (FY 2001)...

Monday, July 19, 2010 - 3:22 PM

The International Monetary Fund has given Americans a tough-minded analysis of the challenges we face in putting the country on a more responsible fiscal course. While a recent IMF report points to some bright spots in the U.S. economy and praises federal policies in some key areas, it offers less upbeat predictions than the Obama administration has issued. More belt-tightening, the international organization warns, will be needed in the next few years and beyond.

“The (U.S.) authorities’ commitment to halve the budget deficit by 2013, and intention to stabilize public debt at just over 70 percent of GDP by 2015 are welcome, although much remains to be done to achieve these aims,” the report says. “Given that we use less optimistic economic assumptions than the (Obama) administration, we see the need for more ambitious adjustment to stabilize debt than that envisioned by the authorities . . . “

The IMF praises the Obama administration’s plans for a freeze on non-security domestic spending. But it also cautions that more tax revenue will be necessary as well. The report bolsters The Concord Coalition’s long-standing contention that both spending cuts and tax increases will likely be needed...

Monday, July 19, 2010 - 10:34 AM

Below are several developments we have been following since the last edition of the Washington Budget Report (sign up here) was published. 

2011 APPROPRIATIONS PROCESS MOVES FORWARD AS TIME STANDS STILL FOR THE 2010 SUPPLEMENTAL: Last week the House Appropriations Committee continued to make progress on the FY 2011 bills. House subcommittees reported the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; Energy and Water; and...

Monday, July 12, 2010 - 10:22 AM

As Congress returns from its July 4th recess, below are some of the budget stories we have been following since the last edition of the Washington Budget Report (sign up here) was published. 

  • Before the recess, the House of Representatives passed a deeming resolution by a vote of 215-210. (For background material on deeming resolutions, a Congressional Research Service report can be found here and a Concord Coalition blog entry can be found here).  The deeming resolution was included as part of the...
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - 3:46 PM

Imagine if Congress held a vote in the next few months on a bill that cut nearly $3.7 trillion in income taxes, added $350 billion worth of loopholes and deductions to the tax code, and increased Medicare spending by $236 billion.

There might be quite an uproar. After all, we are experiencing the largest deficits in history with increasing awareness of our clearly unsustainable long-term outlook.

Yet, this bill is effectively being passed by Congress, sometimes in decisions made on a month-to-month basis and sometimes annually, through multiple bills that contain Medicare doctor payment "fixes," extenders, Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) patches, and through the big upcoming push to extend some or all of the Bush tax cuts. Members from both parties have voted time and again over the last 10 years for this bill.

Today's release of the Congessional Budget Office (CBO) long-term outlook highlights the deleterious effect of these decisions on the budget outlook both over the short term and the long term. In it, CBO constructs a baseline of where current law would take us and a baseline of...

Monday, June 28, 2010 - 1:49 PM

Last week congressional leaders confirmed what many have long suspected: Congress will not meet its obligation to pass a budget resolution for FY 2011. At a public forum, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said "It isn’t possible to debate and pass a realistic, long-term budget until we’ve considered the bipartisan commission’s deficit-reduction plan, which is expected in December." According to Hoyer, Congress will instead consider a resolution which could include allocations to the Appropriations Committees that are below the President's request, adjustments to the PAYGO rule, instructions to committees to identify waste, language supporting the goals of the President's fiscal commission, and a commitment to vote on the commission's recommendations.

For many years, similar procedural measures have been referred to as "deeming resolutions." As we have written before, deeming resolutions are procedural shortcuts Congress resorts to when it has been unable to pass a budget resolution. Deeming resolutions have been primarily used to move appropriations bills forward...

Thursday, June 24, 2010 - 10:00 AM

A Washington Post editorial today sums up a bunch of different strands of thinking about the federal budget that Concord has been writing about and talking about a lot recently. One is that the country can "walk and chew gum" at the same time when it comes to short-term actions to help the economy that may involve increased deficits and long-term planning to confront the nation's real fiscal challenges. Another is that the current debate in Congress over the cost of tax-extenders is failing to focus on their merits while the overall fiscal challenge continues to go unexamined. A third is that we generally do know what actions need to be taken to reform federal programs over the long run -- but that members of Congress lack the political courage to act, and hopefully the President's fiscal commission can begin to...

Monday, June 21, 2010 - 10:43 AM

Last month I participated in a conference of mostly military officials and national security experts at the Naval War College in Newport, RI. The conference title was “Economics and Security: Resourcing National Priorities.” 

Since then the debates over economic stimulus versus deficit reduction got pretty hot and heavy, and a funny thing happened. I began to recognize quite a few parallels between the other fiscal policy issues I always write about, and this particular angle that I really have never written about: the role of defense and national security spending in achieving fiscal sustainability.

First, I think most Americans (regardless of what they think of our wars and military activity more generally) assume that cuts in the national security budget would weaken our defense capabilities -- that a trade-off exists between deficit reduction and a strong defense. But what surprised me the most at the Naval War College conference was learning that most of the national security officials and experts there, who all advocate for a strong defense, believed that if the defense budget were tightened, the quality of defense spending would actually improve

All seemed to recognize that given...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - 1:23 PM

Debate on the so-called “extenders” bill has focused on the size and duration of unemployment benefits, health insurance assistance for those who recently lost their jobs, Medicare physician payments, state aid for health care and various offsets to mitigate the overall effect on the deficit.

Conspicuously missing from the debate is any scrutiny of the extenders themselves. It’s a missed opportunity to raise needed revenue while simplifying the tax code and broadening the tax base -- goals that economists of all ideological stripes have long advocated. 

Both the House and Senate versions of the extenders bill contain more than 60 narrowly targeted tax breaks that expired last year. Extending them just through this year will cost about $32 billion. The long-term cost runs to over $350 billion. That cost will add to the debt unless it is offset by corresponding tax increases or spending cuts that may prove more harmful to the economy than failing to renew some, or all, of the extenders. 

At a time when the President is commendably urging all federal agencies to identify their lowest priority and least effective items, Congress should devote the same level of scrutiny to the tax code. The extenders would be a good place to...