Because fiscal reform requires extremely difficult choices, it is a subject where many candidates quickly turn to vague platitudes and partisan finger-pointing. In an issue brief released Monday, The Concord Coalition suggests that candidates for federal office should be expected to instead provide voters with credible long-term plans to hold down federal debt, repair the tax system and entitlement programs, and put the country on a more responsible path.
The issue brief provides questions and background information to help voters and the news media evaluate the fiscal promises and proposals of this year’s candidates. The topics include the defense budget, Social Security, health care, tax policies, government waste and possible areas for future bipartisan cooperation.
For example, candidates often denounce wasteful government spending in the abstract, speaking as though waste reduction were a panacea that could balance the budget tomorrow. Voters can ask these candidates to be more precise: “What are some examples of programs that you consider clearly wasteful or subject to widespread fraud and abuse, and how much savings would you expect to recover by reforming or eliminating these programs?”
Candidates should also be asked to identify some areas where they see “particular opportunities for bipartisan cooperation on fiscal reform.” Concord warns that candidates who can offer voters nothing more than complaints about the other party “are unlikely, if elected, to get anything done.”
The issue brief will be periodically updated on Concord’s website to reflect new fiscal estimates and projections as they become available.