With a sharp drop in the federal deficit last year and voters disgusted with Washington’s budget showdowns, there is a broad consensus among elected officials in both parties to shift the political spotlight away from fiscal reform efforts for a while.
President Obama could show real leadership by challenging that comfortable consensus in his State of the Union address tonight. That’s because our nation’s largest fiscal problems remain — and solving them is essential to future economic growth and prosperity.
These problems include mounting federal debt, rising interest and health care costs, an aging population and a tax code that lavishes hundreds of billions of dollars a year in subsidies on favored individuals and industries.
Elected officials have also deluded themselves with unrealistic plans for deep cuts in only one part of the budget — “discretionary” spending that Congress approves on an annual basis. Much more is required to put us on a sustainable course.
A return to “regular order” in the budget process would help. But tardy approval of this year’s spending has already thrown work on next year’s budget behind schedule; the administration plans to release its proposed Fiscal 2015 budget on March 4, a month late.
Also coming up: The Congressional Budget Office plans to release its annual Budget and Economic Outlook next Tuesday, providing the statistical framework for budget discussions in the coming months.
White House Information on State of the Union Address
2013 Long-Term Budget Outlook (CBO)
Release of Budget and Economic Outlook on Feb. 4 (CBO)
The Budget Deal: A Beginning or the End? (Concord Coalition Blog Post)