Washington’s Gift for the New Year: Another Kicked Can

Today, CRFB put out a release, "Washington's Gift for the New Year: Another Kicked Can," on the fiscal cliff deal and previous missed opportunities to fix the debt. While the American Taxpayer Relief Act prevented most of the sharp and poorly targeted spending cuts and tax increases that were part of the fiscal cliff, it wasted an opportunity to put the debt on a sustainable fiscal path in the long term. 

Unfortunately, lawmakers are beginning to display a pattern. As we show in our release, leaders in Washington have promised at the beginning of the last three years to seriously address our unsustainable budget path. But presented with a tremendous opportunity to act, they have consistently come up short, whether it was the Fiscal Commission in 2010, the Super Committee in 2011, or negotiations to advert the fiscal cliff in 2012.

This week's fiscal package was more of the same. While the agreement did enact $650 billion in savings relative to current policy, it also waived $4.6 trillion that was scheduled to occur under current law. However, the sequester was only delayed two months, setting up another hurdle that could be the next opportunity for more deficit reduction.

CRFB President Maya MacGuineas urged lawmakers to break the cycle and keep their New Year's resolutions on fiscal responsibility:

At the beginning of every year, policymakers of both parties pledge to reduce our deficit and bring the country’s finances under control. But instead of abiding by their past New Year’s resolutions, policymakers have forgone many opportunities to tackle the debt – often making things worse instead of better.

End-of-the-year irresponsibility is not for a lack of opportunity, but rather a lack of political will. In the last three years we’ve had the Fiscal Commission, the Super Committee, the Obama-Boehner talks leading up to the fiscal cliff. Instead of coming together on a bipartisan basis to make hard choices, our leaders seem to find it easier to come together and horse-trade over how to make things worse or further delay the necessary changes.

Stumbling over self-imposed hurdles month after month may be what it takes to ultimately make the changes that are needed, but I am confident lawmakers can come together to embrace a big deficit reduction package. It’s time to start expecting more from our elected leaders. Let’s make 2013 the year we hold our leaders to their New Year’s resolutions.

Hopefully, 2013 will finally be the year we go for a bigger and bolder deal.

Click here to read the full release.