Budget Process and Rules
As the world continues to struggle with the economic recovery and increasingly overwhelming debt levels, many are looking to Switzerland’s rather novel method of controlling its government debt, the Swiss “debt brake.” Germany has recently adopted a partial debt brake rule, and there are some discussions taking place about a debt brake rule to cover the entire set of euro zone countries.
The focus in Washington on deficit reduction has produced a slew of balanced budget amendment proposals this year. Many lawmakers see a balanced budget amendment (BBA) to the U.S. Constitution as critical to reducing the national debt and have pushed to pair it with a debt ceiling increase.
Gang of Six Unveils Plan – The bipartisan Gang of Six senators that had been left for dead when one of its members left the group earlier this year quickly sprang back to life on Tuesday when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) rejoined the group and it unveiled its long-awaited plan to colleagues.
If you are following the machinations over raising the nation's debt limit, you know that both political parties expect much of the progress on the budget to be delayed until at least 2013—after the next major election. Not one compromise on the table has even come close to addressing the nation's deficit issues head on. The big question is whether markets and the public will allow our elected officials to flounder around until 2013.
Clutch Goals -- The U.S. Women’s Soccer team scored an improbable victory over Brazil on Sunday in the Women’s World Cup, overcoming a scoring and manpower deficit with a last-minute goal and sealing the victory through penalty kicks. A similar storyline is playing out in Washington involving a different deficit -- the federal budget deficit. It looks as if negotiations to raise the statutory debt limit and reduce the deficit will also come down to the wire.
Where Is Our Columbo? – Peter Falk, the award-winning actor best known for playing the rumpled, yet wily, Lt. Columbo, died on Thursday. Falk, who was an analyst with the Connecticut State Budget Bureau before embarking on a professional acting career, created an endearing and enduring character who used unique techniques to get the job done. Detective Columbo always got the bad guy using a brilliant mind and obsessive desire to tie up loose ends, all hidden behind a disheveled facade to lull the guilty party into a false sense of complacency.
Time ‘Fore’ Action – Golf, that favorite pastime of power players, was even more popular than usual in Washington last week. Not only did the U.S. Open bring the best professional golfers in the world to the D.C. area, but a powerful foursome also hit the links, perhaps linking fiscal policy matters to their conversation as they played their round. Yet, while the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland saw a dominating U.S.
Except in Miami – The Miami Heat weren’t hot enough, but Washington saw record temperatures last week. Capitol Hill may warm things up this week as well as both chambers are in session together for the first time this month and the Biden group looks to pick up the pace of its debt limit/deficit reduction negotiations. CRFB will also add some sizzle with a big conference this week.
The bicameral, bipartisan debt limit and deficit reduction negotiations chaired by Vice President Biden resumed today with the group’s fifth meeting since it first convened last month. The pace of the talks is expected to pick up next week with as many as three meetings.
In the last few weeks there has been an incredible amount of talk about using targets, triggers, caps, and failsafes to help set us on a sustainable course. Many different approaches can be taken to solve the broken budget problem, and CRFB hopes the new Fiscal Toolbox from the Peterson-Pew Commission (PPC) will offer guidance in choosing the right approach to repair the budget.