'Popular' Options Aren’t Enough

Issue Brief
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

As two new bipartisan plans make clear, serious deficit reduction will require highly controversial changes in the federal budget.   But if elected officials reject solid recommendations just because they are unpopular, warns Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition, “ we might as well fold our tents and wait for the inevitable fiscal crisis because we’ll never eliminate trillion-dollar deficits with ‘popular’ options.”

In a new blog post, Bixby notes that elected officials “have not flocked to embrace” plans put forth by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force – of which he is a member -- and the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. And he says it is easy to see why.

“They propose spending cuts in popular programs,” Bixby writes. “They challenge cherished tax breaks and raise revenues in the process. They produce howls of protest from powerful interest groups on the political left and right.”

But he points out that the two plans do one more thing: “They outline plausible paths to a sustainable fiscal policy.” The difficult options they contain are necessary because other, less controversial possibilities  – crackdowns on waste, fraud and abuse, for example  – are simply not enough to get the job done.