My VIEW: Bill Frenzel

On Tuesday, President Obama signed the continuing resolution funding the government for the remainder of FY 2013. As we've explained before, the bill is a hybrid, with full appropriations bills for Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Military Construction-Veterans' Affairs, and Homeland Security, and a continuing resolution for other budget categories. While the bill will prevent a government shutdown, it does little to address sequestration or move us further in solving our debt problem.

CRFB board member and former Congressman Bill Frenzel (R-MN) makes this point in an op-ed today in Forbes. These CR's may keep the government running, but a temporary budget is a terrible way to manage the nation's finances. What could help the country is a grand bargain. Frenzel explains:

CRs are, in fact, a clumsy way to conduct the people’s business. They include all functions of government in one ugly package. They include some reviews of some spending, but they lack the careful scrutiny that is applied when all 13 appropriations bills are passed separately. Lacking a common budget target, legislators are forced to bundle all spending in to a CR.

In the past few years, frequent budget crises have become the rule for Congress. This year we avoided the cliff, dodged the debt ceiling, and now have eased the effect of the sequester. We will face another debt ceiling expiration in August, and probably have another CR in September. All of these could have been avoided had our political leaders agreed on a long term budget plan to stabilize the debt ratio at a reasonable level.

This year both the Republican House and the Democratic Senate have passed budgets. The Senate budget was the 1st in 4 years, and was a cause for public celebration. The bad news is that the House and Senate versions are poles apart. A compromise is considered highly unlikely.

The Republican budget balances after 10 years, and stabilizes the debt ratio at 55%. It raises no new taxes, and makes drastic cuts in health care spending. The Democratic budget lowers debt slightly, but does stabilize it. It increases taxes by $1 trillion, and makes small spending cuts. These budgets are reconcilable, but only if the politicians regard each other as the opposition, instead of the enemy.

Without a reconciliation, our budget process will move the country backwards into more CRs and more cliffs in 2014. We will survive, but continue to lurch from crisis to crisis.

Our economy will be denied the certainty it requires for a faster recovery.

What is lacking here is the Grand Bargain, a 10-year program to tame the long term deficit-drivers, and stabilize the debt so we can deal effectively with future emergencies. Every budget observer has a personal favorite version of the big compromise. The well-known Bowles-Simpson Plan is just one of many possible models....

There is still time for compromise, but, so far, the will has been absent. The political parties and their leaders have to make an agreement. Nobody can do it for them.  One day the light will dawn. They will begin to understand that compromise is strength, not weakness. The sooner that day comes, the better.

Click here to read the full op-ed.

"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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