The Skinny on Biden's Budget

Special Guests: Richard Jackson, Tori Gorman, Steve Robinson

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What’s a “skinny budget?” Concord Coalition Policy Director Tori Gorman explains on this week’s Facing the Future podcast. We also look a little deeper into the Biden Administration’s expansive definition of “infrastructure” with Concord Coalition Chief Economist Steve Robinson. Rounding out the podcast is a thought-provoking conversation with Richard Jackson, President of the Global Aging Institute, about the macro challenges of population aging. Spoiler alert; it goes beyond the budgetary impact.

Gorman explained that it is common for an incoming administration to put out an initial set of tables showing spending and revenue projections for the upcoming year and the following nine years without all the details that will come later in the full budget. This is commonly referred to as a “skinny budget.” In Biden’s case, we have what Gorman called “the skinniest of skinny budgets.”

“All we’ve got from President Biden is just a description of his plan for discretionary spending for fiscal ‘22,” she said. “So it’s a third of the budget and just for the upcoming fiscal year. We don’t have proposals for revenue policies, for mandatory [spending] policies and we’re also missing projections of what we think these policies will do to shape the budgetary contours two, three, five, nine or more years from now.”

Robinson said it is too early to tell whether the president’s fiscal 2022 appropriations request includes, or is in addition to, the previously released infrastructure proposal.

On the infrastructure proposal itself, Robinson said that it seeks to “expand the definition of infrastructure from what we think of as the physical structures to things that are more intangible; you might refer to it as human infrastructure — the skills and abilities and the social environment in which people live and work.”

“The president has this notion that we want to define infrastructure more broadly, but beyond that he wants to redirect the way we use infrastructure dollars,” Robinson said. “Those decisions in the past have historically discriminated or overlooked certain racial or ethnic groups. And so, what the president is trying to do is say this is not simply a matter of getting from point A to point B. It’s what happens along the way.”

Jackson discussed his new paper, The Macro Challenges of Population Aging. “The impact of aging reaches far beyond the federal budget and really promises to transform virtually every dimension of economic and social life over the next few decades. Demography may not be destiny but it really does have profound implications for the economy,” he said.

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 a national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders, and elected officials. Past broadcasts are available here. You can subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeart Radio or with an RSS feed. Follow Facing the Future on Facebook, and watch videos from past episodes on The Concord Coalition YouTube channel.

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