Taxing Time – This week was initially about the federal tax filing deadline, but the tragedies in Boston and Texas have shifted attention away from taxes and Washington. Our thoughts are with all those affected. The events have pushed back the Hill agenda, as well as your trusty Line Items. Lawmakers face a full plate dealing with the aftermath of these incidents as well as immigration reform. Of course, fiscal issues continue to be on the agenda as well as policymakers have been unable to come to agreement on solutions.
Today, the Concord Coalition and Next 10 released a new budget simulator that allows participants to choose for themselves how to reduce our unsustainable budget deficit. The simulator presents a wide range of options on both the spending and revenue sides, and calculates with interest what the budget deficit or surplus would be over the next 10 years.
A Galaxy Far, Far Away – Friday was Stars Wars Day, the annual observance of the popular movie series that plays on the date, as in May the Fourth (be with you). The franchise seems as strong as ever, having survived Jar Jar Binks and returning to the big screen again; this time in 3-D glory. The classic battle between good and evil portrayed in the films is timeless and offers many lessons for us today.
Last week’s report from the Social Security Trustees laid out the challenges facing the vital program. The largest federal program began running annual deficits in 2010 and will continue to do so each year through 2033, when the trust fund is projected to become exhausted. At that point, recipients will see a 25% cut in benefits, absent any action.
David Lawder of Reuters has featured our recently updated budget simulator in an excellent piece about the challenges of cutting the debt. The simulator offers a menu of tax and spending options with the ultimate goal of reducing debt below 60 percent of GDP. As many of our users are finding out, debt reduction is possible but not without considering some difficult options.
The politicians don't seem to want to budge on the budget, but our simulator is allowing the public to nudge them along.
To hear the news coming out of Washington, finding the route to fiscal stability can be pretty hopeless as our leaders all steer in different directions. If only we had a GPS! Well, maybe we do.
Congressional Quarterly's John Cranford has a nice profile of CRFB's "Stabilize the Debt" budget simulator. If you have not done so already, it is worth a run-through to get an idea of the kinds of choices that must be made to put debt on a downward path. Interestingly, Cranford also reminds readers of past efforts CRFB has done to quantify the impact of different budget options:
The New York Times released their own "budget puzzle" over the weekend, allowing users to try to eliminate the primary deficit (the deficit excluding interest) by 2015 and 2030, thereby accomplishing the same goal the fiscal commission is charged with. Similar to our own simulator, it includes options all across the budget to help close the gap.