In addition to the political challenges facing the “super committee” on deficit reduction, it is running short of time. It has a historic opportunity to move beyond partisanship to forge a comprehensive plan for fiscal reform, but under the debt limit legislation approved last summer the panel must issue its recommendations by Nov. 23.
“The way out of this dilemma,” Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert Bixby writes in a blog posting today, “ is to combine their initial deficit reduction package with instructions to the committees of jurisdiction to go further. This would allow the process to go big by keeping it going.”
The committee’s assigned target is to reduce projected deficits over the next decade by a total of $1.5 trillion. But as the Government Accountability Office recently pointed out, even that would still leave the debt on an unsustainable course. So many elected officials and others have urged the super committee to develop recommendations to cut deficits by $3 trillion to $5 trillion instead.
To achieve “a truly sustainable fiscal path,” Bixby writes, we must reform federal health care programs, Social Security and “the hidden entitlements administered through the tax code.” All of these, he notes, are growing rapidly and driving up federal deficits.
While that’s an extremely ambitious agenda, the super committee can make use of previous work done by various bipartisan groups. That includes the president’s fiscal commission and the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force. Both of these panels have suggested sweeping reforms that deserve close consideration.
If more time is needed to fully develop a comprehensive plan, Bixby says, the super committee can “instruct the relevant committees of jurisdiction to find additional savings through the regular budget process in 2012. In effect, the super committee could write a ‘super budget resolution’.”