Op-Ed: Finally, Good News On The National Debt
AOL News | November 11, 2010
It's not every day that the country receives some encouraging news on the deficit and debt front. But Wednesday just so happened to be one of those days.
The co-chairs of the White House's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., released their own proposal for how to get the deficit and debt to manageable levels. While this proposal is not the final report of the commission, it reflects the first step in the commission's task of trying to forge a consensus among a minimum of 14 of the 18 members.
The proposal in a nutshell? Quite impressive.
With the population aging, health care costs growing faster than the economy and a seemingly ever-present imbalance between federal spending and revenues, our nation's debt is set to truly erupt in coming decades.
So how do the fiscal commission's co-chairs get us back to a sustainable course? Well, they take a hard look at every area of the budget.
On spending, the proposal cuts discretionary spending over the next few years and then limits its growth to inflation. Mandatory spending is pared back through changes to civil service and military retirement, farm subsidies and further reductions and controls on health care costs, among others. The proposal also advocates for serious reform of our outdated and inefficient tax system, calling for lower rates, fewer tax credits and exemptions, a simpler code and improved compliance.
The proposal also restores Social Security's solvency, for the sake of ensuring that the program will be there for future generations who will need to rely on it, not for the sake of deficit reduction.
Will every person agree with every proposal in the plan? Of course not. But just a brief reminder -- deficit reduction is hard. If the plan were filled with things we love, we'd be making the deficit worse, not better. This is the fiscal reality.
Reforming our fiscal path is about making our economy stronger down the road, it's about making government work more efficiently, it's about ensuring that social safety nets will still be around for the most vulnerable in society, and it's about tackling our debts before they tackle us. Most importantly, it's about keeping America's promise to bestow better opportunities to future generations.
OK, OK. So with all this praise, there's also got to be major downsides as well, right?
Well, reasonable people can disagree with some of the specific recommendations, and some may call for more spending cuts or more tax increases. But the fact remains that when viewed in its entirety, it's a giant step in the right direction.
As for all the attacks -- that's to be expected. But the co-chairs' proposal is a great starting point for an adult conversation on how to fix the budget, and we eagerly await expanding these conversations into a national discussion on how to stabilize and reduce our national debt.
Maya MacGuineas is president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.