The Current State of the U.S. Government’s Budget

Henry J. Aaron
Henry J. Aaron The Bruce and Virginia MacLaury Chair, Senior Fellow Emeritus - Economic Studies

February 4, 2004

Mr. Chairman:

Thank you for the invitation to testify today before this committee on the current state of the U.S. government’s budget and on the proposals contained in the Administration’s proposed 2005 budget.

Presidents often begin State of the Union messages with some variation on the phrase “The state of the Union is strong.” In the same spirit, I shall begin my testimony with the statement “The state of the federal budget is perilously weak and getting weaker. It is on its way to becoming a threat to national economic and political stability.” To this I would add that the Administration’s proosed 2005 budget would make that situation worse, not better.

I understand that these are strong words and that not all respected economists would agree with them. I also realize that disagreement among supposed experts puts those who depend on expert testimony in a difficult situation. When experts disagree, why not just wait and see if time clarifies matters? Mr. Chairman, you and your colleagues do not have that luxury. You are in the position of a jury judging a difficult case of transcendent importance. You will hear the evidence, and you must reach a verdict, a verdict of action.