If you are looking for straight talk on the country's fiscal crisis, the best place to find it is at bipartisan think-tanks, where experts are willing to face the daunting math, and challenge the political orthodoxy of the right and left.
The Concord Coalition is one of them. It warns that the nearly $20 [trillion] national debt will double within 30 years if we don't change course. The interest payments alone will cost $270 billion this year, about half what we spend on defense.
Editorial Page Editor Tom Moran discussed the outlook recently with Robert Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition. An edited transcript appears below.
Q. On the merits, what do you think of the demand that tax reform should not increase the deficit? Was that the case when the tax code was last reformed, in 1986?
A. If I were to make a demand, that would be mine. It's very important. We have an unsustainable fiscal policy, with debt and deficits projected to grow bigger and bigger in the future. Certainly, we need spending cuts, but a tax cut would just make the problem worse.
In the 1986 reform, both sides agreed on that. The political theory is that tax reform is difficult enough on its own. If you start saying we are going to raise revenue, or increase the deficit, it becomes even more difficult.