StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between



More on the Budget Commission

18 Dec 2009
Posted by Bruce Bartlett

In my Forbes column this morning I criticize the budget commission being established by Congress as the price for raising the debt limit. Echoing what Stan has said earlier, I think such a commission will be ineffective because the American people are not yet ready for serious deficit reduction measures. I cite recent polls showing that while people say they want a balanced budget, they also want lower taxes and higher spending. The following table, which was left out of the column for some reason, illustrates this point. Pew asked people if they wanted higher spending. lower spending or no change for various budget items. As one can see, only foreign aid got as many as a third of people favoring a cut.

Category
Increase
Decrease
No Change
Unsure
Education
67
6
23
4
Veterans Benefits
63
2
29
6
Health care
61
10
24
6
Medicare
53
6
37
4
Combating Crime
45
10
39
6
Help Unemployed
44
15
36
6
Environmental Protection
43
16
34
6
Energy
41
15
35
9
Military Defense
40
18
37
5
Scientific Research
39
14
40
7
Agriculture
35
12
41
13
Anti-Terrorism Defense
35
17
41
7
Foreign Aid
26
34
33
7
State Department
9
28
50
12

 

 These and similar data can be found here.
 
Addendum:
 
Apparently, the average American thinks that almost a quarter of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. It's actually about one percent.
 

Commissions

I think the support for a Budget Commission derives from many sources.

1. It is unlikely to do any harm and may at least shed light on the problem.

2. Many commission reports that are initially ignored, provide good ideas that are later adopted in whole or part. (The two Hoover Commissions produced recomendations that were ignored but can now be found in the structure of OMB, the federal accounting structure and even the Congressional Budget process.)

3. The first BRAC commission actually hit one out of the park and everyone hopes to get lucky a second time.

4. The Medicare Reform Commission was working under similar limitations and almost made it across the finish line. Perhaps the added urgency could be enough to make a difference this time.

5. A commission with recomendations attacked from both the right and left may actually be able to send a message to the center regarding the difficulty of reaching consensus and the need for centrists to become vocal in support of compromise.

I am not sure if any aor all of these reasons justify the time and expense of a commission but it is hard to see how it could hurt.

BTW - If the treasury had $1 for every time a budget wonk used the Herb Stien quote, there would be no deficit and the coralary is that any situation that sustains itself for close to four generations, just might be sustainable.




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