September 18, 2014

Summit Consensus: ‘Tough Stuff’ Still to Be Done

  • 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...

Politicians and policy experts from across the political spectrum agreed on one thing at a “Fiscal Summit” last Wednesday: Despite the falling deficit, our fundamental fiscal challenges have not yet been adequately addressed.

The fifth annual summit held in Washington by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation featured former President Bill Clinton and many other prominent figures.

“Fiscal reform is not an end in itself — it is a means to improving people’s lives through a growing, thriving economy,” said Michael Peterson, president and COO of the foundation.

Glenn Hubbard, an economic advisor to President George W. Bush, argued that “the focus in Washington has been on the short-term outlook when the real issue has always been long term." Others offered similar critiques.

“We gotta get to the big deal,” said Business Roundtable President John Engler. Erskine Bowles, co-chair of the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission, said Congress had “done the easy stuff” and the “stupid stuff” (a reference to across-the-board sequestration) but continues to avoid “the tough stuff."

Alan Kreuger, former chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, noted that in recent years "we've seen Congress create action-forcing events--and then not act.”

Elected officials said they wanted to pursue positive steps in the next Congress.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she wanted to reform tax expenditures: “Put them all outside the door, and let them justify their existence as to whether they contribute to the growth of the economy.”

Rep. Peter Roskam, chief deputy whip for House Republicans, said achieving Social Security reform would be “absolutely fantastic.”