October 20, 2014

Deficit Panel Should Avoid Short-Term Distractions and Focus on Long-Term, Structural Problems

  • The federal budget is an expression of our country's values. Where we choose to spend and at what levels, how and who we tax, and the borrowing we...

President Obama handed his bipartisan fiscal commission two very ambitious assignments: Find ways to balance the budget excluding interest payments by 2015 and to “meaningfully improve” the long-term fiscal outlook.

That may be too much to ask, particularly with a Dec. 1 deadline. So Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby offers a simple suggestion for the commission: Leave the short-term goal to the regular budget process and focus on the more important long-term goal. 

Finding long-term solutions to the nation’s unsustainable fiscal outlook is what originally motivated members of Congress to propose a statutory commission. But when that failed and the President stepped in to establish an executive commission, he added the short-term goal.
 
Simply determining which baseline to use in assessing the required deficit reduction in 2015 would get commission members bogged down. They can’t know what it would take to reach that goal before they know what actions Congress will take this year.

Concentrating on the long-term goal, however, the commission might be able to find some common ground on issues such as reforming Social Security, curbing cost increases in Medicare and Medicaid, and improving the tax code.