Spending Smarter vs. Spending More

Blog Post
Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby and Ben Ritz, director of the Progressive Policy Institute’s Center for Funding America’s Future, joined me on the latest Facing the Future to discuss a preview of PPI’s report on candidate policies and pay-fors, as well as the Congressional Budget Office’s latest 10-year federal budget outlook.

Ritz said, “What I would like to see from this report is two things: 1) A greater focus on public investment spending … we should be looking at not who can spend the most but who can spend the smartest; 2) That there is more of a discussion about what candidates have promised and whether it’s realistic or not.” 

He added that candidates should fill in any gaps that remain in their plans and be subject to more scrutiny if they need to better articulate how they will pay for promises made on the campaign trail.

Bixby said, “I would encourage each candidate to put up a separate issue tab on their website that says ‘here’s my budget; here’s what I’m proposing and here’s what I can offer to pay for these things.’ ”

He added that if for some reason the promises and pay-fors do not add up, then say why. “Either you think that deficits don’t really matter or that what you’re doing will have a good impact on the economy … I think that kind of transparency with voters is important.” 

The important thing is the totality of the proposals and the offsets, and Bixby added that he would like to see candidate proposals and pay-fors put in context of the nation’s existing fiscal picture. “If you think that rising deficits and debt is a problem, you really need to come up with a plan that does more than pay for new things.” 

Bixby recently reviewed candidate websites for dedicated and obvious sections committed to addressing the nation’s debt and deficit issues, and you can see his observations published here in Seacoastonline.com.  

Ritz said, “Over the course of the year, most of the candidates have put out tons and tons of different campaign policy proposals and promises they’re making to try and win over voters, and we thought it was important that as they go into the voting booth, voters have a good sense of what it is candidates are promising … and how realistic these different promises are.” 

That is what brought about PPI’s comprehensive report reviewing policy proposals by some of the top Democratic candidates for president, which will be published January 30. In giving a preview of that report, Ritz added that PPI looked at two primary areas, how much of what each candidate is proposing is dedicated to public investment in the future, versus current consumption, and how candidates plan to pay for those proposals. 

Ritz went on to discuss the policies of the candidates currently polling in the top four across the country, Senators Warren and Sanders, Vice President Biden and Mayor Buttigieg. 

Bixby said Concord responded to CBO’s latest budget outlook “with horror.” And he summarized the report by saying, “If you like budget deficits in excess of a trillion dollars for the foreseeable future, that’s what we’ve got … this is really confronting those presidential, and even congressional, candidates.” 

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 and elected officials. Past broadcasts are available here. You can subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play Music or with an RSS feed. And follow Facing the Future on Facebook.