Missing: Concern for Fiscal Policy Issues

Blog Post
Friday, February 08, 2019

On the latest Facing the Future program, Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby discussed President Trump’s State of the Union address and crucial items that were missing in it.  

“One thing the president didn’t do . . . was face the future on the fiscal front,” Bixby said. “There was really no mention of the debt . . . there was no mention of the annual federal budget deficit.”

Bixby said that the president spoke on some positive things like economic growth, the need for bipartisanship, and potential for the future, but “it all rings a little bit hollow if you don’t mention the deep underlying structural budget deficit that is piling up and acts as a shadow over all this.”

“I wish there could be some sort of fiscal reality check,” he added. “We have a good economy fueled by very, very large budget deficits and very, very low interest rates and how that’s going to go on without some negative consequence, that’s a big question.”

“The budget deficits are growing . . . even though the economy is doing well and the unemployment rate is low,” Bixby said. “This is an unusual and somewhat alarming circumstance.” A strong economy normally enables the government to reduce its borrowing and perhaps even pay down some of its debt.

Bixby said that President Trump could have teed up key issues like the need for health care reform and Social Security repairs in a nonpartisan, fact-based manner. But he missed an opportunity to use the bully pulpit to spark a national discussion on such issues.

Digital marketing consultant Jeff McLean also joined the program to discuss campaign finance reform and how technology is changing personal finance.

McLean worked with Professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard and helped with Lessig’s brief 2016 Democratic presidential campaign. McLean’s experience caused him to see a correlation between federal debt issues and money in politics. For example, McLean said that the excessive money in politics has helped perpetuate policies that increase the national debt.  

“When we did public polling on the issue there was overwhelming support for campaign finance reform,” he added.   

“So long as you have these issues floating around, I think it makes it more difficult to address the growing annual deficit,” McLean added.

“One of the things I came to realize. . .was that it can be difficult to focus on the urgent need to address the long-term federal debt and obviously the growing deficits . . . when the statistics show that 77 percent of the public lives paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “Homing in on that issue is something that I’ve cared deeply about for a number of years.”

McLean added that the growth in financial technology has helped drive down the cost of financial services and tools that previously might have been out of reach for the average person. As a result of increased accessibility and usability, such technology is helping individuals and families improve their personal finances.

 

Hear more on “Facing the Future.” I host the program each week on WKXL, NHTalkRadio.com (N.H.), and it is also available via podcast. Join me and my guests as we discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders, elected officials and candidates for public office. Past broadcasts are available here. You can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play or through RSS.