As the election enters its final two weeks, The Concord Coalition today released an issue brief detailing the “Nine Challenges for ‘09” that will be faced by whichever presidential candidate wins the election.
On November 4, the time for campaigning will be over, and the time for transitioning to a new administration will begin. Whoever wins must have the flexibility to adapt. This does not mean sacrificing principles. A President McCain can still emphasize the importance of low taxes and low spending. A President Obama can still emphasize the need for new domestic investments. However, they will not be writing on a clean slate. Other presidents, most recently George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, recognized the need to alter their campaign promises once it became apparent that circumstances warranted a shift. McCain and Obama should remain open to this possibility as well and begin preparing for it in their public pronouncements. History has not been kind to presidents who stubbornly cling to preconceived agendas.
Given how rapidly events are moving, including the changing nature of the current administration’s policies, it is fair to grant the candidates some leeway in how they respond on the campaign trail. It is not too much to ask, however, that they honestly confront some basic fiscal policy challenges.
The following are nine fiscal policy challenges that will test the next president in ‘09 and beyond.
The financial crisis and its spillover into the broader economy has become the top agenda item for the new administration, regardless of prior campaign promises.
Short-term fiscal stimulus must be combined with long-term fiscal discipline.
Fiscal stimulus should maximize bang for the buck.
Two problems that led to Wall Street’s crisis -- lack of transparency and over-reliance on debt -- are problems for the federal budget as well.
Current fiscal policy is already on an unsustainable track.
Health care reform must reduce the growth in costs.
Eventually, we are going to need more revenues.
Over the longer term, we need to save more and consume less.
It is understandable that during the presidential campaign the American people would hear only of the benefits of candidates’ proposals and not of the costs. And the campaign talk has been helpful in sketching out the rough outlines of two very different approaches to fiscal policy. But whether it is President Obama or President McCain, the next president will confront the reality of real economic and budgetary constraints—not just political ones—on how quickly and vigorously he can push through the agenda he promised while campaigning. The next president should weigh the costs and benefits, and thoughtfully prioritize and maybe re-prioritize his plans. For the sake of the U.S. economy and the well-being of future generations, we cannot give up on fiscal responsibility, especially not now.
To access the issue brief, “Fiscal Policy Beyond Election Day: Nine Challenges for ’09,” visit: http://www.concordcoalition.org/issue-briefs/2008/1022/fiscal-policy-bey...
The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to balanced federal budgets and generationally responsible fiscal policy. Former U.S. Senators Warren Rudman (R-NH) and Bob Kerrey (D-NE) serve as Concord's co-chairs and former Secretary of Commerce Peter Peterson serves as president.