Bipartisan Panels' Recommendations Could Provide an Antidote for Ill-advised Campaign Rhetoric

Issue Brief
Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Although today’s election will change the political landscape in Washington, unpleasant fiscal realities will remain: Rapidly rising medical costs, a Social Security system headed for insolvency, a deeply flawed tax system and federal debt that is on an unsustainable track.Will the political winners be up to these challenges? Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition, considers the fall campaign inauspicious.“Few candidates have had anything useful to say about realistic fiscal solutions,” he says in a new blog post. “ To the contrary, many new members of Congress will have been elected on pledges to foreswear the very things that will be needed: spending cuts in popular entitlement programs and defense, tax increases and, most of all, compromise.”But reports scheduled for release within the next few weeks by two bipartisan commissions could at least provide some options for elected officials who are serious about fiscal reform. Bixby is a member of one of these panels – the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force – and he says the plan it will release on Nov. 17 “will show at least one way out of the fiscal morass.”The President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is supposed to issue its report Dec. 1. While that group faces a steep requirement of 14 out of 18 votes to issue recommendations, Bixby says any proposal that emerges with bipartisan support deserves consideration by Congress.“At a minimum,” he writes, “these reports will provide options for those willing to take seriously the voters’ mandate to ‘do something’ about the nation’s perilous fiscal path. The campaign is ending. The problems remain. What’s needed now is a dose of political will.”