These are the times that try budget analysts’ souls—especially budget analysts who’d like to see Washington dramatically cut spending. The debate over lifting the debt ceiling has produced a number of proposals from Capitol Hill—none of them have been worth celebrating. We can now add House Speaker John Boehner’s latest proposal to the pile.
I testified to the Senate Finance Committee today regarding federal spending and debt.
Here are some of the points I made:
If it is true that a failure to increase the debt limit on August 2nd has the potential to bring about economic Armageddon, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves if it’s a good idea to allow the political class in Washington to continue collectively play God with our lives? After all, these people are fallible human beings.
An op-ed by Peter Singer and Michael O’Hanlon in today’s Politico questions the impact of spending cuts on the military. “Substantial defense budget cuts are possible, make no mistake,” the Brookings’ scholars concede, “But they could mean loss of capability, and some may increase security risks.”
My colleague Dan Mitchell discussed the good, the bad, and the ugly in the deficit reduction plan released by the bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Six.” As Dan noted, the plan is more of an outline and a complete assessment isn’t possible until more details emerge. However, the fact that President Obama immediately embraced the plan ought to tell proponents of limited government all they need to know.
The “Gang of Six” senators has released an outline of budget reforms that would supposedly reduce deficits by $3.7 trillion over 10 years. Revenues would rise by at least $1 trillion, while spending would be theoretically trimmed by various procedural mechanisms. The plan promises to “strengthen the safety net,” “maintain investments,” and “maintain the basic structure” of Medicare and Medicaid, which doesn’t sound very reform-minded to me.
Washington is the only town where the circus never leaves. Elephants, donkeys, clowns and a ringmaster residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — our nation's capital has it all. And what a show they're putting on for the American people over raising the debt ceiling for the umpteenth time in recent years.
Cato Institute scholars Chris Edwards and Dan Mitchell evaluate the plan offered by Republicans for lowering federal spending using a so-called “Cut, Cap and Balance” proposal that would make small cuts to federal spending in the short run, cap federal spending, and balance the federal budget using a tax-limited balanced budget amendment to the Constitution:
Many of the laws covering today’s workforce were written more than seven decades ago during the New Deal. Collective bargaining and the unemployment insurance system, for example, were both established in 1935. Since then, the U.S. labor force and industrial structure have vastly changed, which creates an opportunity to update the laws to better suit the modern economy.