The Bottom Line

February 26, 2014

In a somewhat atypical move, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel previewed in a speech yesterday the Department of Defense's (DoD's) budget request for FY2015, which will be a part of the President's Budget submitted to Congress next week. The budget shows the types of cuts necessary to comply with congressionally mandated budget cuts that transition DoD from an era of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and real growth in the defense budget to a new era of discretionary spending restraint.

February 26, 2014

In a new and informative series on Reforming the Budget, the Brookings Institution looked at challenges facing the budget process and proposed strategies to improve its shortfalls. Given the frequent breakdown and tardiness in the process and the limitations of federal budget data, there are a number of ways to improve budget process and accounting in order to facilitate better decision making.

February 25, 2014

Tomorrow, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) is expected to release his comprehensive tax reform proposal after a series of discussion drafts. The tax code is in significant need of an overhaul, and reform can to improve fairness and simplicity, make U.S. businesses more competitive, and reduce the deficit. Over the years, CRFB has produced extensive analysis of previous proposals and the need for tax reform.

February 24, 2014
Weekly Update on Budget and Fiscal Policy Developments and a Look Ahead

Closing the Ceremony – The Winter Olympics ended in Sochi, Russia on Sunday with the closing ceremony. The eye-catching spectacle put an exclamation point on two weeks of intense drama and competition. Another ceremonial closing occurred back in Washington as it was reported that the president’s forthcoming budget would not include any offers of compromise as last year’s budget did.

February 24, 2014

CBO's recent budget projections show a much deteriorated budget outlook, with debt now rising faster over the coming decade than previously anticipated. Their projections, of course, are based a number of assumptions, including assumptions about future policy. Were Congress to make different policy choices than CBO assumes, debt numbers could change significantly.

February 21, 2014

Next week, House Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp is set to release a draft of a bill to revamp the U.S. tax code, according to press reports. It was unclear whether Camp would release a tax reform draft at all, as House Republican leadership remains skeptical of tax reform, and Camp's Senate taxwriting counterpart Max Baucus was recently confirmed as Ambassador to China.

February 20, 2014

Today, the White House announced that the President will not propose adopting the “chained CPI” in the President’s Budget this year, as he did last year (though the White House commented today that they are open to the provision as part of a bipartisan deficit reduction deal).

February 19, 2014

At the beginning of the month, the Congressional Budget Office released its annual report on the federal budget, which showed that the deficit is expected to fall by $166 billion from last year to this year, but increase by $1.7 trillion over the next ten years compared to previous projections.

February 19, 2014

Last Friday, 16 Senate Democrats sent a letter to President Obama, but it wasn't for Valentine's Day. Rather, the letter warned the President against including cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits in his FY 2014 budget, due out in two weeks. Although it did not specifically mention any policies, it was clearly addressed at the inclusion of the chained CPI in last year's budget and certain modest Medicare cost-sharing reforms.

February 18, 2014

Last week, the relevant Congressional committees released a bipartisan, bicameral proposal to replace the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula for Medicare physician payments, which has repeatedly been modified or delayed before taking effect since 2003. Despite this agreement, much less work has been done concerning how to pay for the cost of the replacement.

February 18, 2014
Weekly Update on Budget and Fiscal Policy Developments and a Look Ahead

Cold Reality – The Winter Olympics are in full swing in Sochi, Russia, but Washington saw its own share of winter games before Congress adjourned for yet another break. Lawmakers played with the debt limit and considered virtually every idea under the sun before agreeing to put it off for another year. Legislators also fooled around with various budget gimmicks as they seek to game the system. There are a lot of issues that Americans want their representatives to tackle, but there isn’t much hope of that happening in this political climate.

February 14, 2014

Earlier this week, Congress moved quickly on a bill to repeal the military cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) reduction for working age retirees that was included in the Ryan-Murray budget deal. The bill repeals the reduction for all service members who started before 2014, effectively delaying any part of the reform for 20 years and delaying its full phase in until 2058.

February 12, 2014
Good Economic Policy Would Call for the Opposite

In May of last year, CBO expected the 2014 deficit to fall to $560 billion from 2013's total of $680 billion. Now, CBO is estimating a deficit of $514 billion this year, a reduction of $46 billion compared to May.

February 11, 2014

Last week's report by the Congressional Budget Office showed that our debt remains on an unsustainable path, (see our ongoing blog series) and is projected to be $1.7 trillion higher by 2024 than we previously thought.

Despite the dismal fiscal picture, Congress may be considering measures to worsen the deficit, and covering their tracks with so-called "budget gimmicks."

February 11, 2014

With the debt ceiling having been reinstated last Friday, lawmakers are scrambling to come up with legislation to lift or suspend it again before extraordinary measures likely run out by the end of the month. Originally, House Republicans had planned on attaching a repeal of the military retirement cost-of-living adjustment reduction for people who joined the service prior to 2014 to a debt ceiling suspension through March 15 of next year.

February 11, 2014

In order to avoid bumping up against the statutory debt ceiling, the Department of the Treasury has begun undertaking a number of so-called "extraordinary measures." The current debt limit is $17.211 trillion.

February 10, 2014
Weekly Update on Budget and Fiscal Policy Developments and a Look Ahead

Having Our Phil – Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow last Sunday, traditionally meaning six more weeks of winter. That is no surprise to most of the country that has seen record low temperatures and extraordinary amounts of snow. Most of us have accepted the reality of more wintry weather ahead just as we recognize that little in the way of substantive action will come out of a polarized Washington. But that doesn’t mean we are happy about it.

February 10, 2014
Agreement on “pay-fors” still needed

Last week, on the day Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus was confirmed to his new post as Ambassador to China, the Senate Finance, House Ways and Means, and House Energy and Commerce Committees announced a bipartisan agreement to reform the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula for Med

February 7, 2014

In its February 2014 Budget and Economic Outlook, CBO continued its previous warnings from last year's February outlook and September's long-term outlook: elevated and rising debt level pose serious risks for economic growth and budget flexibility.

In its latest outlook, CBO highlights on page one the consequences of high levels of debt:

February 6, 2014

In CBO's 2014 Budget and Economic Outlook released this week, they addressed the future of the federal government's largest program, Social Security. Social Security has two separate trust funds: one for Old Age and Survivors Insurance and one for Disability Insurance. It is clear from CBO's analysis that both face mounting fiscal challenges in the coming years.

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