May 29, 2017

Just Paying For New Programs Won't Be Enough

In considering budget plans for the coming fiscal year, President Trump and lawmakers should keep in mind that under current law the federal government is already on track to run up deficits of nearly nine and a half trillion dollars, according to Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition.

“I think that one of the problems . . . with what we’ve seen so far from the White House is that if you are just going to try to pay for new initiatives -- if you are going to pay for the new defense spending by cutting other spending -- that’s fine, but it still leaves the budget on an unsustainable track,” Bixby said Sunday on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal.

Stan Collender, a Forbes columnist, also appeared on the program and expressed a variety of concerns about Washington’s ability to meet the difficult fiscal challenges facing the country.

Bixby emphasized that most of the projected growth in federal deficits over the next 10 years is driven by mandatory spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These programs are growing rapidly because of the aging population and rising health care costs. They are projected to outpace federal revenue in the years ahead, producing larger and larger deficits.

Instead of focusing on mandatory program reforms, Bixby said, Washington has concentrated on discretionary spending programs that Congress approves on an annual basis.

“They are important, and we should debate them, and we should try to do them as efficiently as possible,” he said. “But that’s not where the real spending growth is going, and those aren’t the programs that are driving the long-term debt problem.”