April 24, 2014

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Friday, September 11, 2009 - 3:42 PM

After President Obama's big health care speech this week, we have been talking here at Concord about how he makes it sound as if all we have to do to cut health care costs is cut the “waste” and “abuse” that no one should want anyway. That’s how he can claim his plan would reduce federal health spending without cutting any federal health care “benefits” -- because it wouldn’t cut any spending that actually “benefits” people.

The problem often in Washington however, is that one man’s “waste” is another man’s precious benefit. And when politicians traditionally talk about cutting "waste, fraud and abuse," they do so, in part, to duck the hard choices required to make real progress on the nation's long-term fiscal problems. That is why one of the foundational agreements among all of the members of the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour is that we can't solve our problems simply by cutting those items. (By the way, you can now watch a special set of videos on our website featuring the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour panelists speaking about health care reform.)  

When talking about health care and waste, the term does...

Friday, September 4, 2009 - 12:16 PM

Ezra Klein has a good post today discussing the problem with the costs of health care reform and how to pay for them. His point is that the structure of the bills being discussed so far lead them to not do enough to control long-term costs, and that efforts to scale them back further either achieve a lower price by delaying implementation--which just allows cost to dramatically diverge from the "pay-fors" outside the budget window--or they simply leave the currently unaffordable system relatively intact.  As David Brooks seconds in the New York Times, the effort to make reform politically palatable--in that it didn't try to dramatically change how most Americans get their health care--instead left us with proposals that are not very popular, but also don't provide the change needed to begin to fix our health care cost problems.

In some sense this is because the problems with our health care system are so dramatic, that the broader in scope the reform, the greater the chance that reform has to actually cut costs. But it is also because members of Congress have a hard time doing the right thing from a policy...

Sunday, August 30, 2009 - 8:53 PM

The first definition of “plausible” on dictionary.com is:

plausible
[plaw-zuh-buhl]

having an appearance of truth or reason; seemingly worthy of approval or acceptance; credible; believable: a plausible excuse; a plausible plot.

Note that it doesn’t say “likely” or “probable”–it connotes the notion of possibility not probability. I bring this up because many folks, especially the media, want to interpret the “Concord Coalition Plausible Baseline” as our best forecast of what the fiscal outlook will turn out to be. No, we’re not saying that’s the most likely outcome; we’re saying that’s a plausible, possible outcome. And it’s a worst-case scenario, because that’s what we do at Concord: we warn about the possible really bad outcomes if we don’t start making more responsible choices–because we don’t want them to happen.

On Saturday's front page of the Washington Post...

Friday, August 28, 2009 - 9:52 AM

Perhaps even more than most of Concord’s Fiscal Wake-Up Tour programs, the one in Maine this week underscored the need for a really big alarm clock.

The recession has sliced into the government's revenue while putting its spending on steroids. Concord Executive Director Robert L. Bixby offered the Wake-Up Tour audience of more than 200 in Kennebunkport a troubling factoid: last month’s federal deficit of $180 billion was larger than the deficit for all of 2007.

And on the same day, the Obama administration released a grim projection of $9 trillion in deficits over the next decade, $2 trillion higher than its previous estimate. When this was reported in Kennebunkport, fretful murmurs swept through the room. 

Even the $9 trillion figure is probably too optimistic, according to Concord’s analysis. So to borrow an analogy from David M. Walker, president and CEO of The Peter G. Peterson Foundation: Watch out for the "tsunami" that’s on the way.

Then there’s the current status of the health care debate: High interest in new government services and assistance, considerably less enthusiasm for proposals to pay for them. And not all that...

Friday, August 28, 2009 - 9:50 AM

Speakers in the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour sometimes worry that all the bad news they are delivering may be leave audiences too discouraged about the country’s future. Too much gloom and doom, after all, could cause some people to simply throw up their hands in despair.

But while people who attended this week’s Wake-Up program in Kennebunkport, Maine, found the presentations sobering, they also seemed engaged and in many cases energized to seek solutions.

That was reflected both in the wide-ranging questions during the program and in comments from some audience members afterwards.

“The program was very informative; it’s great that we can do this,” said Jonathan T.E. Courtney, assistant Republican leader in the Maine Senate. He strongly agreed with the calls for Democrats and Republicans to cooperate in finding solutions to the nation’s fiscal problems: “We just can’t sustain this level of spending.”

Such cooperation in Maine, he said, enabled legislators there to begin to deal constructively with difficulties in the state budget this year: “We decided to engage Democrats rather than throw bombs.”

Frank Gallagher, a Portland Democrat and Maine director for Americans United for Change, also liked the program and agreed with much of what he heard there. Rising federal deficits, he said, were a critical...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 - 12:14 PM

Throughout the day, Concord will be releasing new items related to today's budget numbers released by the CBO and OMB.

For immediate reactions, check out our Twitter feed.

Our new Concord Plausible Baseline Chart with its backup data can be found on our baseline page.

A press release is in the works (it is up now--JG), but for now a few interesting statistics:

  • Our baseline, which is based on the CBO baseline and extends current policy, shows a $14.4 trillion in additional deficits over the next 10 years.
  • By 2019, debt held by the public will pass 100% of GDP (102%)
  • In 2019, interest on the debt will cost over $1 trillion. At 5% of GDP, that will be more than spending on National defense or domestic discretionary programs.

More soon...

...in the...

Friday, August 21, 2009 - 4:10 PM

Bloomberg and AP reported this week that the Obama Administration’s latest budget outlook, scheduled for release next Tuesday (same day as CBO’s summer update–watching the PR and press that day will be interesting), will show that they expect the fiscal year 2009 budget deficit to come in $262 billion lower than they predicted in May–at “only” $1.58 trillion, or 11.2 percent of GDP. Cause for celebration? Well, only if you don’t mind “premature celebration.”

Both articles point out that a $1.6 trillion deficit is not really qualitatively different from a $1.8 trillion deficit (both are “humongous”). From the Bloomberg article (by Brian Faler and Roger Runningen):

The deficit figure, as revised, would amount to 11.2 percent of the nation’s economy, the official said. That would be the biggest share since 1945.

“It’s better than we expected but it’s still a huge deficit,” said Stan Collender, a...

Thursday, August 20, 2009 - 5:03 PM

There is still a ton of interesting writing about health care reform coming out daily and I am sure most of you are aware of the discussions taking place in Congressional districts across the country. I thought it would be good to provide some new links that we have been looking at this week.

First, I can direct you to our new web page charting the differences in the congressional health care proposals. This chart was put together by Chuck Konigsberg, Concord's Chief Budget Counsel, who writes our weekly Washington Budget Report. Subscribe to the budget report to get updates when Congress is in session about where the health care reform debate is heading and other budget news.

Concord also has a new page devoted to health care where you can get our newest...

Friday, August 14, 2009 - 10:41 AM

Last Friday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sent a letter to Congress requesting an increase in the statutory debt limit.  In the letter, Geithner noted:

"It is critically important that Congress act before the limit is reached so that citizens and investors here and around the world can remain confident that the United States will always meet its obligations."

The current statutory debt limit is $12.104 trillion.  As it stands today, the national debt is $11.658 trillion -- providing less than $500 billion of buffer room.  The Treasury Department expects federal debt to exceed the limit sometime this fall

To help everyone understand the statutory debt limit, the drivers behind this proposed increase, and the options available to policymakers, The Concord Coalition published an "Understanding the Federal Debt Limit" issue brief. The brief sets out to make sense of these developments and encourage Congress to address the real issues at hand. 

 

P.S. On a...

Thursday, August 6, 2009 - 7:40 PM

Today’s Washington Post reports that the Senate Finance Committee has come up with a bipartisan plan that contains a new revenue offset (or “pay-for”) that’s more consistent with the goals of health reform (emphasis added):

Senate negotiators are inching toward bipartisan agreement on a health-care plan that seeks middle ground on some of the thorniest issues facing Congress, offering the fragile outlines of a legislative consensus even as the political battle over reform intensifies outside Washington.

The emerging Finance Committee bill would shave about $100 billion off the projected trillion-dollar cost of the legislation over the next decade and eventually provide coverage to 94 percent of Americans, according to participants in the talks. It would expand Medicaid, crack down on insurers, abandon the government insurance option that President Obama is seeking and, for the first time, tax health-care benefits under the most generous plans. Backers say the bill would also offer the only concrete plan before Congress for reining in the skyrocketing cost of federal...