Author Archive

Are Low Interest Rates Masking Future Deficits?

Thanks to artificially low interest rates, the United States has been able to finance deficits exceeding $1 trillion every year from 2009 through 2012 at very low cost. Throughout the period, the ratio of interest to the GDP has remained almost stable and is not expected to start rising until 2015. Some argue that this […]

The Risks of Dumbing Down Fiscal Goals

In one of the more dangerous fiscal developments of recent months, some on the left are defining successful deficit reduction as merely stabilizing the federal debt at about 70 percent of Gross Domestic Product by 2022. While there is no magic target, this one is far too modest and threatens to leave future fiscal policy […]

How to Control Entitlements: A Challenge Ike Did Not Face

Yesterday, I described President Eisenhower’s remarkable success in turning  a large deficit in fiscal 1959 into a balanced budget in 1960.  It was one of the biggest fiscal consolidations since World War II.  Although it was a very different time, there are lessons relevant to today’s fiscal challenges.  One is that a president need not […]

How Eisenhower and Congressional Democrats Balanced a Budget

The election results did not change the political status quo, and the status quo has not been conducive to solving the nation’s festering fiscal problems.  In his victory speech President Obama pledged to seek bipartisan cooperation in solving problems, though  it is not going so well so far.  But we better hope that in the […]

Balanced Budget Amendments Are Not Always What They Seem

A constitutional amendment that would require a balanced federal budget has again gained favor, especially among Republicans. The proponents should be forced to answer an important question, “What is a budget?”  Forty nine states have constitutions or strong legislative language requiring budgets to balance.  An unfortunate effect has been to push many state activities “off-budget”. […]

How the Budget Baseline Favors Spending: Continued

My blog on “How the Budget Baseline Favors Spending” stimulated numerous thoughtful comments. Some implied that my proposal would reward those who wish to make the Bush tax cuts permanent and ignore the fact that dubious accounting was used to get them passed in the first place. Those arguing this point did not pay sufficient attention to my last paragraph which implied that baseline reform would have to await the disposition of the Bush cuts. Further, I alluded to the possibility that whatever portions of the Bush policy are extended, the extension will again be temporary, thus making it difficult to finally settle the point.

How the Budget Baseline Favors Spending

The Congressional Budget Office’s expenditure and revenue baseline is supposed to illustrate the budget implications of extending current policy. Few may care how the baseline is actually constructed, but since all policy changes are measured “from the baseline,” the arcane definitions that describe current policy can have a profound effect on Congressional decisions.