Last week The Concord Coalition kicked off our new project: Toward a Fiscally Responsible Economic Growth Agenda.
At the kick-off event we featured a selection of authors of the project’s initial five policy papers. All of the authors discussed the importance of an agenda focused on increasing economic growth within a commitment to fiscal responsibility because one cannot be sustainably achieved without the other.
After opening remarks about the project from Concord’s executive director Bob Bixby, the first speaker was Kent Smetters, Faculty Director of the Penn Wharton Budget Model. Smetters focused on how debt still matters, how total debt is increasing, and how current measures likely understate the degree to which it will continue to increase.
Next, the audience heard from the paper authors. Joseph Antos of the American Enterprise Institute discussed the paper he co-authored with Alice M. Rivlin on health reform. He spoke about how their paper focused on areas of achievable agreement across ideological lines in ways that build on the current system but still transform it into one where there is lower cost growth and greater patient choice, competition and transparency.
Marc Goldwein from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget followed with a discussion of how Social Security reform can both insure solvency for the program while also remaking how the program interacts with decisions by workers on when to retire, what type of retirement they enter, and how much to save prior to retirement. Such comprehensive reform, as laid out in his co-authored paper, has the potential to dramatically increase economic growth.
Jacqueline Varas, co-author of the American Action Forum paper on immigration reform, then spoke about how their reform plan addresses increasing economic growth by both increasing the potential amount of immigration to help offset the aging of the workforce and also by refocusing immigration criteria to better fit the country’s economic needs.
Robert Atkinson of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation argued that research and development (R&D) spending has fallen significantly as a share of GDP and that current R&D is not focused on advancing technologies that drive productivity. He explained that his paper lays out a framework for policymakers to devote more direct and indirect funding to R&D focused on developing technologies that will boost productivity. If successful, the shift will increase economic growth and reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio.
Finally, Robert Lerman from The Urban Institute spoke about his co-authored paper on worker training. He focused on how increasing access to training programs, utilizing new methods to certify worker skills, and expanding apprenticeships, can reduce government costs for skill development, help reduce income inequality and increase mobility, and create less need for government social transfers. This would also improve the business climate and lead to higher productivity.
The next step in Concord’s new project will be to incorporate the theme of a fiscally responsible economic growth into our public education mission at events around the country.