MY VIEW: David Walker September 23, 2013
It's the first week of fall, and that means the end of the fiscal year is drawing to a close. Unfortunately, we still do not have a bill funding the government for FY 2014 or even a path forward laid out at this point. In today's Washington Times, Former U.S. Comptroller General and CRFB board member David Walker lays out what he expects for the government funding negotiations. Should they fail to reach a compromise on a comprehensive plan, they should at least partly take advantage of this opportunity:
Congress and the president should work together to replace the senseless sequestration with alternative mandatory and discretionary spending cuts for at least the next two years. They should also set targets for additional spending reductions through social-insurance reforms and additional revenues through comprehensive tax reform. The relevant congressional committees should be charged with coming up with related legislation by a specified date.
To ensure more timely and informed actions moving forward, Congress should also enact biennial budgeting, a meaningful no-budget-no-pay bill, the recently introduced Inform Act, and a substantive Government Transformation Commission that can recommend cost-control measures. Finally, the individual mandate under Obamacare should be delayed, because the government is not ready to implement it effectively.
We must change the way the federal government keeps score. Right now, policymakers focus on annual deficits and 10-year baselines. A more comprehensive and credible approach should take into consideration all our unfunded promises and liabilities, including Social Security, Medicare and civilian and military retirement obligations, and a much longer time frame. Importantly, that figure can go down if we achieve a responsible grand bargain — unlike the amount shown on our National Debt Clock. We also need to focus our fiscal reform efforts on the ratio of debt to gross domestic product, and not the budget deficit. In fact, we should ultimately replace the debt ceiling with a debt-to-GDP limit.
We previously set our expectations for the negotiations in a recent paper that included a grading scale for how lawmakers deal with appropriations and sequestration. Some of Walker's additional measures would be welcomed. Ultimately, if Congress is not able to use this opportunity to achieve a "grand bargain," they must at least keep their commitment to fiscal responsibility, and the American people must demand it in these coming months. Writes Walker:
We must address our biggest deficit — the leadership deficit. Our elected officials have shown too little backbone when we need the courage and conviction that goes with true leadership. This will take both the emergence of nontraditional leaders and political reforms that will encourage more qualified people to seek office.
Ultimately, however, it is “We the People” who must take the lead. Independent-minded Americans of all political affiliations and diverse groups need to come together to focus on common concerns and goals. My travels across the country have convinced me that a significant majority of Americans would rally behind specific economic and political reforms, as long as they are deemed to be comprehensive and fair. In the end, the prescription we need is a consensus for action, and a voting public that says “enough” to politicians who refuse to be part of the solution.
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.