The Bottom Line

January 29, 2014

In yesterday's State of the Union address, the President called for extending unemployment benefits that expired in December, which would affect roughly 1.6 million long-term unemployed people. Lawmakers were unable to agree upon an extension last December, when the emergency unemployment compensation program—originally passed in 2008—expired.

January 29, 2014

The threat of the "dairy cliff" is receding. On Monday, lawmakers in the farm bill conference committee emerged with an agreement that would save $17 billion through 2023. These savings come on top of an estimated $6 billion over ten years of savings that will come from the sequester.

January 28, 2014

Tonight at 8:00 PM, President Obama will address Congress and the nation in the State of the Union address. As he lays out his agenda for the next year, CRFB will be following along and providing analysis of policies related to the budget. Hopefully, the President will address our long-term debt problem in his remarks and set the stage for a bipartisan deficit reduction effort.

January 28, 2014

In the State of the Union address tonight, President Obama is not expected to focus heavily on fiscal issues or the national debt. However, in laying out an agenda for the nation, we hope the President will mention that we have not yet tackled the drivers of our long-term fiscal imbalances.

Fix the Debt has enumerated some suggestions for what the President should say in his speech:

January 27, 2014

Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, introduced legislation expanding many veterans' benefits and addressing long standing concerns of the veterans' community.  The expansions would cost approximately $30 billion, and could be debated in the Senate as early as this week.

January 27, 2014

Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and the presumptive incoming Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden (D-OR), have sponsored a new bill that attempts to improve the way Medicare manages care for patients with chronic conditions.  Although it is unclear whether the legislation will be scored as achieving any savings, it puts forward the framework for an alternative delivery system and payment model that offers the potential of providing more cost effective care and ultimately achieving savi

January 27, 2014

On Friday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released cost estimates for two bills to permanently replace the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that determines Medicare payments to physicians -- one from the House Ways and Means Committee and another from the Senate Finance Committee.

January 27, 2014

President Obama's State of the Union address is tomorrow night. In preparation of his speech, we've brought back our great State of the Union fiscal bingo game - DEBT-O!

January 24, 2014

Yesterday in an interview on CNBC's Squawkbox, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers chimed in again on his views that boosting economic growth should be a more important priority than making long-term budget reforms. As CRFB said late last year in response to one of his op-eds, Dr. Summers's arguments seem to feed the false notion that long-term debt reduction and a growth strategy somehow conflict, when in reality they are one and the same. In addition, Dr.

January 23, 2014

Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew sent a letter to Congress, updating the Treasury's projections of when the nation would hit its statutory borrowing limit. In mid-October, the deal that ended the government shutdown also suspended the nation's $16.7 trillion debt limit until February 7.

January 22, 2014

The war savings gimmick is back! As the debate over how to offset a permanent "doc fix" to Medicare's Sustainable Growth Rate formula heats up, the idea of "paying for" it with "savings" from the war drawdown already underway has resurfaced.

January 22, 2014
Weekly Update on Budget and Fiscal Policy Developments and a Look Ahead

One Debate Spent, More to Come – The long saga over the Fiscal Year 2014 budget came to an end as Congress approved of spending bills funding the government. While the votes on the appropriations package in both houses were lopsided, the bipartisan result came only after a protracted process that included a shutdown in October, two sets of tense negotiations, and several stopgap measures.

January 21, 2014

One of the most contentious provisions in the Ryan-Murray budget agreement that became the Bipartisan Budget Act was a provision that reduced cost-of-living increases for military retirees under age 62 (read our explanation here).  The provision generated the ire of many veterans groups, and some lawmakers have vowed to reverse the reduction.

January 21, 2014

We couldn't have said it better ourselves! A Washington Post editorial today called on Congress to break with the trend of recent Congresses and actually pay for any extensions for expired and expiring tax provisions.

January 17, 2014

Military personnel costs continue to increase as a share of the defense budget. One of the fastest growing components is military health care, where spending has outpaced even overall health care spending growth, according to the CBO. With base defense spending being reduced in recent years and through 2021, as a result of the Budget Control Act and sequestration, controlling health care spending will be important, or it will crowd out other defense priorities.

January 17, 2014

Yesterday, the Senate passed the Omnibus appropriations act (72-26), following strong passage in the House (359-67). The bill will now be sent to President Obama to sign. Earlier in the week, we took a look at what is in the $1.1 trillion spending bill, and also documented the winners and losers.

 

 

January 17, 2014

Yesterday, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), M.D., announced that he would retire at the end of the year, two years before his Senate term would normally expire. Dr. Coburn has had a long career in the Senate, and his decision represents a big loss for advocates of fiscal responsibility.

January 17, 2014

A large national debt has far-reaching consequences. On the blog, we often talk about the economic consequences of debt, as they are perhaps the most easily quantified. However, there are also moral and ethical consequences to leaving a large debt burden to future generations and risking a fiscal crisis. Yesterday, CRFB hosted a discussion that examined the less covered side of the budget debate.

January 16, 2014

Largely due to changing demographics, the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted within the next 20 years. To avoid this, most reform plans follow the model used by the last major change to Social Security in 1983: modest adjustments to taxes and benefits to extend the life of the Social Security Trust Funds without dramatic changes. However, other reformers say that the current system does not adequately meet the nation's retirement needs and should be rethought.

January 16, 2014

Last month's Ryan-Murray budget deal set overall spending levels for the government at $1.1 trillion, but it did not set specific spending levels for each agency. On Monday, the Appropriations Committee released an omnibus spending bill detailing how the money is allocated between agencies, along with dozens of specific instructions directing what projects agencies must and must not fund.

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