MY VIEW: Bill Frenzel October 2013

It is difficult to believe that nearly two weeks ago, our country was on the brink of default, the shutdown dragged on, and lawmakers seemed unable to come to any sort of compromise. After narrowly avoiding fiscal disaster, many may be ready to put the budget on the back shelf. But on Friday, Bill Frenzel penned an editorial in Forbes that claims the budget should remain a focus and what we should expect going forward from the budget conference.

Fiscal crises have been manufactured by Congress, Frenzel argues, and in focusing on brinksmanship, they are reducing their ability to implement needed reforms to address our long-term debt. He writes:

We have been watching this long-running soap opera since well before Republicans regained their majority in the House in 2010. The Bowles-Simpson Deficit Commission began its work in April that year. On their clearer-thinking days, both parties agree that the goal is supposed to be a reduction in the US debt ratio, something along the lines of Bowles-Simpson.  Unfortunately, there are few clear-thinking days.

At every stage of this running battle, the solutions have been temporary. Crises have been averted, but only for a few months. No solutions have been achieved. Increasing debt continues to loom. Each catastrophe temporarily avoided has set up another a few months ahead.

Frenzel has low expectations for a conference committee, but still believes that a substantive agreement could be reached, if lawmakers commit to creating real policy instead of pushing off crises as they are used to doing:

After giving our economy, and our world reputation, a kick in the pants, the parties have delivered another temporary postponement.  Time is too short now for the grand compromise. But the policy makers could salvage something in this otherwise dismal year.

They could modify the sequester cuts, but off-set changes with cuts elsewhere. They could also establish a budget path forward to a targeted debt ratio of 60% in 10 years, using growth-oriented tax reform and reductions in the long-term programs that are driving the deficit /debt.

At this point, the best that can be expected is a future target, a plan without details, and without enforcement. But that’s far better than we have achieved in the past five years. Congress is not very good at keeping its promises, but a 10-year target would be worth trying.

Click here to read the full article.

"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.