The Bottom Line

December 17, 2013

For years, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) resisted the temptation to talk in broad generalities about "wasteful government spending" and has instead been willing to call out specific examples. Today, his office has published the fifth edition of his annual Wastebook, detailing 100 examples of what he describes as "wasteful and low-priority spending," totaling almost $30 billion.

December 17, 2013
The Real Value of the Budget Deal

It has been one week since Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced they had reached a bipartisan budget agreement, which is now being considered in the Senate. CRFB board member Bill Hoagland, a longtime expert on the federal budget process and former staff director of the Senate Budget Committee, weighed in on the deal in an op-ed today.

December 16, 2013

As CRFB has explained in a recent analysis, the Bipartisan Budget Act under consideration in the Senate would replace a portion of the mindless sequester cuts with more targeted reforms. One controversial proposal in the bill would reduce cost-of-living adjustments for working-age military retirees. This blog explains that provision.

December 16, 2013

This is the fifteenth post in our blog series, The Tax Break-Down, which will analyze and review tax breaks under discussion as part of tax reform. Previously, we wrote about the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which provides credits to state-run housing agencies, which are then distributed to developers and investors to build low-income rental housing.

December 16, 2013
Budget Deal is Just a Start

The budget agreement reached by the Senate and the House last week both has some good elements and bad elements. In particular, it replaces some of the sequester in 2014 and 2015 with targeted and permanent savings policies like reforming military and civilian retirement and improving the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation but does not do enough to make the long-term debt sustainable.

December 13, 2013

As we've said before, paying for temporary costs with savings that grow over the long term is very helpful for the long-term budget outlook, as it provides deficit reduction when it is most needed and after the costs have been incurred. In addition, doing so can provide up-front help for the economy. There are several policies in the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) that achieve this objective, saving relatively little in the first ten years but whose savings grow over time.

December 13, 2013

On Wednesday, we published an analysis of the Bipartisan Budget Act, which would replace a portion of the FY2014 and FY2015 sequester with mandatory cuts and user fees. Based on our analysis, the legislation would increase the deficit in the short run, modestly reduce it over ten years, and save about $100 billion in the second decade.

December 13, 2013

Today, Kiplinger's Personal Finance published a new interview with Fiscal Commission co-chair and CRFB board member Erskine Bowles. In a discussion with editor Janet Bodnar, Bowles argues that despite modest improvements in our country's fiscal outlook, we still face a crisis unless lawmakers deal with the long-term drivers of the national debt.

December 12, 2013

On Tuesday, Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan announced a budget deal that set discretionary spending levels for the next two years, removed some of sequestration's cuts, imposed targeted spending cuts and fee increases, and modestly reduced deficits over the next decade (see our full analysis of the deal).

December 12, 2013

So far, reactions to the budget agreement have been mixed. As we said in our report yesterday, Understanding the Bipartisan Budget Act, the deal replaces short-term savings in sequestration with smarter, permanent savings from mandatory savings and user fees, a positive development. But it largely pushes the big decisions down the road.

December 12, 2013

With the details on the agreement reached by Budget Committee chairs Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) made fully available yesterday, CRFB has gone deeper into the Balanced Budget Act in a new paper and breaks down the sequester relief, the offsets, and finally the overall effect on the budget this decade and over the long term.

December 11, 2013
Weekly Update on Budget and Fiscal Policy Developments and a Look Ahead

We Have a Deal – Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) announced a budget deal late Tuesday after weeks of negotiation and a few days ahead of the December 13 deadline for their conference committee to report an agreement. The deal sets topline spending numbers for the next two years, $1.012 trillion for fiscal year 2014 and $1.014 trillion for fiscal year 2015.

December 11, 2013

Update: See our full analysis of the deal here

On December 10th, Budget Committee chairmen Patty Murray and Paul Ryan announced an agreement to set discretionary funding levels for 2014 and 2015 and provide a package of reforms to offset the costs of appropriating funds above the levels set by sequestration.

December 11, 2013

With the end of the year fast-approaching and the looming prospect of a 24 percent cut to Medicare physician payments on January 1, the House of Representatives has introduced a bill to delay the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) mechanism through the end of March.

December 10, 2013

In recent weeks, we've used our blog to call for strict adherence to pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) principles for extending emergency unemployment benefits, offering sequester relief, extending the doc fix, and continuing the so-called tax extenders.

December 9, 2013

As budget talks continue, negotiators could turn to postal reform for budgetary savings.

The United States Postal Service is currently in bankruptcy, and losing about $6 billion per year.

December 9, 2013

A good piece in the Washington Post over the weekend takes a look at why Medicare physicians continue to use an expensive drug to help prevent blindness when what appears to be an equally-effective drug is available for a fraction of the price.

According to the article, Lucentis costs Medicare about $2,000 per injection. Avastin costs only around $50.

December 9, 2013

As the budget conference committee continues its work on finding a bipartisan solution to replacing a portion of the sequester with better targeted reforms, negotiators appear to be turning to user fees and related receipts as an alternative to tax revenue.

December 9, 2013
Avoid Budget Gimmicks

While we continue to hope for a substantial budget deal that would address our long-term fiscal problems, it looks like a smaller deal is more likely. Replacing part of the sequestration with permanent long-term savings would represent progress, though more work will remain.

However, as CRFB President Maya MacGuineas wrote in zpolitics over the weekend, if lawmakers are looking toward a smaller deal, it becomes that much more that the avoid budget gimmicks and worsening the fiscal situation. Writes MacGuineas:

December 6, 2013

The budget conference committee is rumored to be close to a deal that includes changes to federal retirement programs, increasing the share that federal workers pay toward their own retirement funds.

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