President Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission will hold its first meeting on April 27. It has two very ambitious assignments -- find a way to balance the budget excluding interest on the debt by 2015 and “meaningfully improve” the long-term fiscal outlook. All of this is supposed to be done by December 1, 2010.
That’s quite a task. It may even be too much to ask. So here is 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. Only when that effort failed did the President step in by establishing an executive commission with the added goal of filling a gap in his budget.
The short-term budget goal could easily distract the commission from its long-term mission. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a commission member, had it right when he told POLITICO last week, “I don’t think a commission should be absorbed with the short-term budget. We need them to focus on long-term structural problems.”
Simply determining which baseline to use in assessing the required deficit reduction in 2015 would get the commission bogged down. They can’t know what it...