National Journal

Bipartisan Budget Solution

I applaud the 10 Senators who are calling for a bipartisan commission on the budget. Too bad there are no Republicans in the group so far but perhaps that will change.

And too bad some other Democrats, such as Pelosi, are also opposed. 

In both cases, they are ducking their responsibilities unless they come up with specific proposals to reduce long-term projected deficits – which is not happening and is not likely to happen any time soon. In the meantime, we are courting all kinds of trouble from slower growth, to an economic crisis, along with reduced flexibility to get the economy moving again or handle a new international threat. But perhaps even more important than the effects on the economy is the effects on confidence in government. 

A group of us has been going around the country talking about these issues as part of the Fiscal Wake Up Tour.  We find that citizens are much more upset about the failure of their elected leaders to act than they are about accepting the specific sacrifices that deficit reduction implies. If the two parties could join hands and take joint responsibility for proposing some tough actions the public would go along. 

It has happened before: in 1983 on Social Security reform, in 1986 on tax reform, in 1990 and again in 1997 on the budget. Presidential leadership is needed as well. Too many people on the left think that we can solve the problem by controlling health care costs but it is now apparent that we’ll be lucky if health care reform doesn’t dig the hole any deeper. The bills currently under consideration contain very little that will “bend the long-term cost curve.”  And too many people on the right believe that higher revenues lead to an intrusive and inefficient public sector despite the fact that we are now spending about $1 trillion a year on tax preferences for all kinds of activities, most of which would be better left to the market.