Fixing US?

Special Guests: Robert L. Bixby, Mike Murphy

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On Facing the Future, Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby and Mike Murphy, chief of staff and director of strategic initiatives at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, joined me to discuss CRFB’s latest initiative “FixUS,” which is an effort to better understand and educate the public on the root causes of the nation’s growing divisions and deteriorating political system and work with others to fix them.


“We seem to be growing more and more divided by the day,” Murphy said. “Until we address and better understand the root drivers of our division and polarization in this country, we believe sustainable policy solutions to the debt and a range of other issues will remain elusive.”

He said it is still necessary to work to address the nation’s debt challenge because it is of great importance, but potential solutions are becoming harder to come by due to growing divides.

FixUS has a three part approach. The first is research and public education. The second, expanding and mobilizing the community that is working on these issues. The third is engaging in a bottom-up, citizen-guided process that can generate the values needed to unite and reach solutions.

Bixby provided an update on CBO’s monthly budget review, the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations process and a recent report published in Health Affairs on 2018 health care spending.

He said that although CBO’s budget review shows a higher deficit than at the same point last year, two months into the fiscal year, there is not enough of a trend to guarantee a higher year-end deficit for Fiscal 2020. But most projections have the government experiencing a more than trillion-dollar deficit.

None of the appropriations bills have been passed yet, and the government is still operating under a Continuing Resolution that expires December 20, Bixby added. Failing to enact another CR or pass a spending package would mean another shutdown. And border wall funding still seems to be a major sticking point.

“They could pass some of the bills … but both sides want leverage,” he added. “It’s like, ‘we’re not going to pass any of the bills until we figure out what we’re going to do on the border wall.’ ”

Health Affairs published a report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which looked at health care spending in the United States for 2018.

“Total spending was $3.65 trillion, if you ever wanted to know how much we spend in the country on health care,” he said.

Health care spending and cost growth has been relatively stable over the past couple years. “The stabilization is the continuation of a surprising trend,” Bixby said. “Health care costs have not, aside from demographic impacts, grown by as much as they were projected to, and I think that is probably a validation of some of the efforts taken over the past few years.”

“That doesn’t mean we don’t have any problems,” Bixby said. “There have to be continued efforts to try to keep health care spending on that relatively stable track.”

Hear more on “Facing the Future.” I host the program each week on WKXL, (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.

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