Capital Exchange is a new blog featuring debate among some of Washington’s smartest budget and policy experts. –Eric Pianin, Washington Editor and Moderator
Larry Haas is wrong about the need for, in his words, “chest-thumping” about the deficit.
We’ve had plenty of fire-and-brimstone fiscal preaching over the past decade. In fact, that’s all we’ve had. But as today’s deficit projections attest, none of that has led to what’s really needed: spending cuts and revenue increases. Why Larry believes that more righteous indignation and soap box-like oratory now will lead to something actually happening is hard to understand.
The same is true for Larry’s assertion that more educational activities are needed to help voters understand what has to be done about the deficit. Over the past few years the Concord Coalition has conducted its “Fiscal Wake-up Tour” across the country and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget held lots of meetings at which it presented voters with what it called “An Exercise in Hard Choices”.
When he was Comptroller General, David Walker crisscrossed the United States participating in both of these activities and speaking to countless other groups, and he has continued these activities in one form or another as president of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. (Peter Peterson funds The Fiscal Times, an editorially independent digital news venture that is not affiliated with the foundation.) There has been lots of media coverage about the federal budget, deficit and debt on everything from Fox to Comedy Central. My own blog – Capital Gains and Games – is largely devoted to federal budget issues…and it is hardly the only one.
And only god knows at this point how many hearings, debates, working groups, discussions, summits, task forces, commissions and votes have taken place in the House and Senate over just the past decade on these issues.
Larry actually admits that no more education or convincing is needed. “(T)he public is growing increasingly concerned about soaring red ink…” he says, and it’s hard not to notice virtually every poll on the subject shows that’s the case.
Larry’s actually got the order of what’s needed backwards. At this point the chest-thumping and education will be needed after rather than before policymakers decide to do something. Not only will the spending cuts and revenue increases needed to reduce the deficit have to be explained and sold to voters that seem to want painless solutions, but elected officials will need to know that they’ll have political cover for doing what needs to be done.
Therefore, and completely contrary to Larry’s plea that we be grateful for and appreciative of this week’s public meeting of the deficit reduction commission appointed by President Obama and the Peterson Foundation’s fiscal summit, my recommendation is that we celebrate neither. Instead, let’s stop thumping chests or any other body part and actually get on with it.
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Stan Collender is the author of the Capital Gains and Games blog and is a partner with Qorvis Communications LLC.