MY VIEW: Maya MacGuineas

Oct 10, 2013

In yesterday's New York Times, the paper asks in its "Room for Debate" series what federal spending we are better off without in light of the sequester and the government shutdown. CRFB President Maya MacGuineas answers that we've always known the real fiscal solutions won't exclusively involve tackling wasteful spending but rather taking up entitlement and tax reform.

So far, lawmakers efforts during the government shutdown appear to be mostly political, rather than focused on finding a way to solve our fiscal problems. MacGuineas argues lawmakers need to think bigger if they want to get out fiscal house in order.

There definitely is plenty of wasteful and overlapping spending in Washington -- and the sequester pushes policy makers to focus on where they can get savings. The Government Accountability Office has identified dozens of areas of duplication and overlap in the federal government, like that between the Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration over catfish inspections. There's still much needed oversight that is lacking. But a government shutdown isn't the way to solve it.

There is still room to cut in areas like farm subsidies. Reforms to federal retirement and health benefit programs can also achieve savings. Privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority. Charge more to cover the cost of the national parks. The list goes on. We need to do all of these and more, but it's not where the real money is.

What we’ve learned from sequestration and the shutdown is that despite the significant economic disruption caused by these efforts in the near term, they have done little to reduce the long-term debt. Under realistic assumptions, public debt is expected to reach 100 percent of the economy by 2035 and will continue increasing.

Cutting waste, fraud, and abuse, while necessary, just simply won't cut it. Even sequestration fails to put our budget on a sustainable path. Writes MacGuineas:

The budget cuts so far have come from a small sliver of the federal budget and are poorly timed, coming as the economy struggles to recover. A smarter approach deals with all parts of the budget, including tax and entitlement reform, and is phased in over a longer term, allowing for more deficit reduction without stunting growth.

A much better investment is to start bipartisan discussions to comprehensively address our longer-term fiscal challenges.

Click here to read the full piece.

"My Views" are works published by members of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, but they do not necessarily reflect the views of all members of the committee.

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