October 23, 2014

Former Treasury Secretaries Lament Budget Politics

  • 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...

The most difficult obstacles to fiscal reform efforts are more political than economic, as several speakers emphasized at a Strengthening of America -- Our Children’s Future forum last Wednesday.

The country has the strength and capacity to deal with its budget challenges, they said. It is the political will to act that is in question, with many elected officials reluctant to make difficult choices and seek bipartisan cooperation.

James A. Baker III, a former Treasury secretary, said that a grand bargain to put the country on a more responsible fiscal path would require “something that’s become a dirty word” in Washington: “Compromise.”

Another former Treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, noted the example of  the Founding Fathers, who overcame strong disagreements with each other to produce the Constitution through “principled and effective compromise.”

Former Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), one of the former senators who convened the forum series, said the group believes “there are feasible and responsible solutions that we can pursue to protect our children’s future, if we work together.”

But Nunn, a co-chairman of The Concord Coalition, said elected leaders would have to summon more political courage and engage the public in a “genuine dialogue” about the fiscal challenges and the trade-offs involved.