When it comes to budget negotiations, many interest groups demand that certain items be considered “off the table” and exempt from any changes. The reality, however, is that everything needs to be on the table for both economic and political reasons.
To reduce budget deficits, policymakers must make politically painful policy changes by raising taxes on constituents and/or reducing spending on services provided to them. Because different tax increases or spending cuts of the same magnitude do not always have the same impact, policymakers should aim to make informed decisions that target these policy changes rationally.
There is no shortage of proposals in Congress and in academia for improving the federal budget process. Given that the process has remained essentially unchanged since 1974, it may well be overdue for a facelift. Many of these proposals, such as biennial budgeting, could refocus lawmakers’ attention on long-term thinking. Others would create long-term fiscal targets and automatic mechanisms to enforce them.