What's The Difference Between BRAC And A Budget Commission?
Long time CG&G (and Vox Baby before that) reader "Brooks" commented this morning on CG&G's continuing discussion about the value of a budget commission. Bruce, Pete, and I all agree that it won't accomplish much. Brooks disagrees and in his comment links to an op-ed on cnn.com by Indiana Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) in which he discusses his commission plan.
Here's the money quote from the Bayh op-ed:
...our bipartisan panel would put all options on the table, including spending cuts and revenue raisers. Congress would then be compelled by law to debate the recommendations and take an up-or-down vote on the entire plan.
The plan Bayh is describing is very similar to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) process that many people use as an example of how and why a budget commission could work magic when it comes to reducing the deficit.
There's only one problem with this comparision: the two situations aren't at all comparable.
The BRAC works because it is implementing a decision that has already been made, that is, a consesus exists and an agreement is in place that some military installations should be closed. The only thing the BRAC is doing is making a recommendation about which facilities should be included.
A budget commission, on the other hand, would be charged with the fiscal equivalent of having to decide whether any facilities needed to be closed at all, whether there are other ways military spending could be limited, and even whether the Pentagon needed to be cut back at all. Those are far different and politically much more difficult questions. My guess: if BRAC had to deal with this it would never accomplish anything and wouldn't be the model many people think it to be.
A budget commission that only had to make a BRAC-like decision would have a much higher likelihood of being successful. But...and it's a HUGE but...this would require that the budget commission be established only after a consensus and decision had been reached not just to reduce the deficit but that the deficit be reduced only be cutting spending, only by increasing revenues, or some other such choice. The budget commission would then be charged -- BRAC-like -- with implementing the consensus and determining which programs should be reduced, which taxes shoudl be raised, etc.
Sorry Brooks. We really and truly appreciate your continued visits to CG&G, but this just doesn't work. Thanks for the inspiration for this post, however.