Economist Mom: Are You Scrooge or Santa?

Blog Post
Monday, December 24, 2018

“It would be nice if, in the long term, we actually paid for the government that we want,” says economist Diane Lim.

The latest Facing the Future features Lim and Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby in another “Economist Mom” segment. With a holiday theme, they discuss the Congressional Budget Office’s recent report on options to reduce the federal deficit.

Looking at CBO’s options, which involve cutting spending or raising revenues, Bixby said he understood why elected leaders have difficulties making the tough choices.

“You end up looking more like Scrooge than you look like Santa Claus,” said Bixby. “Face it, if you’re about to go to the voters, would you rather look like Scrooge or Santa Claus?”

He added: “It seems to me for politicians the trick is, How do you become a soft-hearted Scrooge or a tough-love Santa?”

“It’s not very difficult,” Lim said, “to come up with a list of proposals that make economic sense.”  

“This list hasn’t changed much over the years,” she said. “The reason we see these options come up year after year is because Congress never actually follows through and takes any of CBO’s ideas and turns them into law.”

Policy analyst Phil Sletten joined the program to discuss New Hampshire budget policy and potential fiscal challenges in the upcoming state legislative session. Sletten works at the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that works to inform public policy debate in the state.

Sletten went into detail regarding the ins and outs of the state budget process and discussed sources of revenue for the state, how it handles debt and more.

“The state’s operating budget. . .is a two-year budget,” said Sletten. “That budget is the largest single policy document that any legislator. . .votes on in their time in office.”

“The New Hampshire legislature is required to approve a state budget that only appropriates as much as planned revenues are,” he said. “That requirement is in statute -- it’s not in the Constitution -- and is generally followed.”

“The state budget is about 30-percent funded through federal funds,” he said. “The largest area on that front is Medicaid.”

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.