Press Release

CRFB Reacts to the State of the Union Address

CHAIRMAN
Bill Frenzel
Tim Penny
Charlie Stenholm

 
PRESIDENT
Maya MacGuineas
­­­
 
DIRECTORS
Barry Anderson
Roy Ash
Charles Bowsher
Steve Coll
Dan Crippen
Vic Fazio
Willis Gradison
William Gray, III
William Hoagland
Douglas Holtz-Eakin
Jim Jones
Lou Kerr
Jim Kolbe
James Lynn
James McIntrye, Jr.
David Minge
Jim Nussle
Marne Obernauer, Jr.
June O'Neill
Rudolph Penner
Peter Peterson
Robert Reischauer
Alice Rivlin
Martin Sabo
Gene Steuerle
David Stockman
Paul Volcker
Carol Cox Wait
David M. Walker
Joseph Wright, Jr.
 

SENIOR ADVISORS
Elmer Staats
Robert Strauss


CRFB Reacts to the State of the Union Address
January 27, 2010



The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget commends President Obama for his focus on deficit reduction in his State of the Union address, and hopes that he will follow through by pressing Congress to enact medium- and long-term deficit reduction policies over the next year.

As the President remarked tonight, we find ourselves in a “massive fiscal hole… a challenge that makes all others that much harder to solve.” And he argued, rightly so, that “if we do not take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery.”

The President offered three proposals, in particular, which would be promising steps in the right direction:

  • A three-year non-security discretionary spending freeze, beginning in fiscal year 2011, and enforced by a veto, if necessary;
  • A bipartisan fiscal commission – created by executive order and fashioned after the Conrad-Gregg proposal – to provide a specific set of solutions to our fiscal problems;
  • The reinstatement of statutory pay-as-you-go laws (although as we’ve mentioned before, we are concerned about the large number of exemptions).

“We are thrilled that President Obama understands the threat of ever-rising debt, and is making some concrete proposals to begin to address it,” said Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Budget. “But actions speak louder than words. In the coming weeks and months, we urge the President to bring together members of both parties and begin taking concrete actions to stabilize the debt once the economy recovers.” 

 


Click here for a pdf version of this release.

For press inquiries, please contact Kate Brown at (202) 596-3365 or brown@newamerica.net.

 

CRFB Welcomes New Budget Proposals

CHAIRMAN
Bill Frenzel
Tim Penny
Charlie Stenholm

 
PRESIDENT
Maya MacGuineas
­­­
 
DIRECTORS
Barry Anderson
Roy Ash
Charles Bowsher
Steve Coll
Dan Crippen
Vic Fazio
Willis Gradison
William Gray, III
William Hoagland
Douglas Holtz-Eakin
Jim Jones
Lou Kerr
Jim Kolbe
James Lynn
James McIntrye, Jr.
David Minge
Jim Nussle
Marne Obernauer, Jr.
June O'Neill
Rudolph Penner
Peter Peterson
Robert Reischauer
Alice Rivlin
Martin Sabo
Gene Steuerle
David Stockman
Paul Volcker
Carol Cox Wait
David M. Walker
Joseph Wright, Jr.
 

SENIOR ADVISORS
Elmer Staats
Robert Strauss
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


CRFB Welcomes New Budget Proposals
January 27, 2010
 

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is encouraged by recent proposals to address the nation’s large budget imbalances. Constructive plans from the Blue Dog Democrats in the House, Senators John McCain and Evan Bayh, and Congressman Paul Ryan—in addition to President Obama’s expected budget proposals in tonight’s State of the Union address—are all helpful in jumpstarting a much-needed national discussion about our fiscal future.

“It is no longer sufficient for policymakers to acknowledge that we have a problem” said Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “You’d have to be blind not to know that. Now is the time to start proposing real solutions—and it is gratifying to see that a number of policymakers are taking that responsibility seriously.”

The “Blue Dog Blueprint for Fiscal Reform” unveiled yesterday puts forward the goal of stabilizing the debt level at 60 percent of GDP—a key recommendation of the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform. In order to achieve that goal, the plan lays out 15 steps including: restoring paygo rules, capping discretionary spending, instituting a “budget reconciliation trigger” to enforce budget discipline, and establishing a fiscal commission to recommend to Congress spending and revenue changes to ensure long-term fiscal sustainability.

The Bayh-McCain “Fiscal Freeze Act” would limit non-security discretionary spending growth to inflation, place a moratorium on earmarks, and implement a number of other reforms to stay in place until the federal budget is balanced. It also calls for long-term spending and deficit reduction targets, along with mechanisms to enforce those targets.

Congressman Ryan’s detailed “A Roadmap for America’s Future 2.0” announced today includes a comprehensive set of reforms for healthcare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the budget process and the tax system. The debt would still reach 100 percent of GDP by mid-century—a level we worry is far too high, but it is nonetheless a significant improvement compared to current policy, and a far more detailed offering than we have seen from any other politician.

President Obama will reportedly announce a three year freeze on “non-security” discretionary spending, as well as a presidential fiscal commission, in his State of the Union address tonight.

CRFB does not support every element of each proposal, but we commend those offering them for exhibiting leadership and political courage in putting forward a plan. We hope others will follow their leads.

 

Click here for a pdf version of this release.

For press inquiries, please contact Kate Brown at (202) 596-3365 or brown@newamerica.net.

 

CRFB Supports Creating a Statutory Commission

CHAIRMAN
Bill Frenzel
Tim Penny
Charlie Stenholm

 
PRESIDENT
Maya MacGuineas
­­­
 
DIRECTORS
Barry Anderson
Roy Ash
Charles Bowsher
Steve Coll
Dan Crippen
Vic Fazio
Willis Gradison
William Gray, III
William Hoagland
Douglas Holtz-Eakin
Jim Jones
Lou Kerr
Jim Kolbe
James Lynn
James McIntrye, Jr.
David Minge
Jim Nussle
Marne Obernauer, Jr.
June O'Neill
Rudolph Penner
Peter Peterson
Robert Reischauer
Alice Rivlin
Martin Sabo
Gene Steuerle
David Stockman
Paul Volcker
Carol Cox Wait
David M. Walker
Joseph Wright, Jr.
 

SENIOR ADVISORS
Elmer Staats
Robert Strauss
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


CRFB Supports Creating a Statutory Commission
January 25, 2010
 

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) supports creating a statutory commission to help deal with the nation’s budgetary challenges.

As part of the discussion on whether to increase the debt ceiling, the Senate is scheduled to vote this week on an amendment offered by Senator Kent Conrad (DND) and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) to create a task force that would make specific recommendations for how to address the nation’s fiscal imbalances. President Obama endorsed the commission this weekend.

It has long been the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s preference that Congress directly addresses these urgent budget challenges, but given the seeming unwillingness to do so under regular order, CRFB thinks a commission would be beneficial.

“A commission is certainly not a cure-all,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “Our leaders must still make hard tax and spending choices, and sell them to the American people. But a commission can help to jump-start the critical process of crafting a sensible fiscal plan for the country, and make that process just a little bit easier.”

A budget commission offers a number of potential advantages including:

  • Sending a credible signal to creditors and financial markets that the US is serious about tackling its fiscal challenges 
  • Establishing a shared fiscal goal
  • Creating a bipartisan forum in which to discuss budget issues
  • Establishing a process to ensure that the recommendations are considered
  • Lending political cover

“The country now faces both medium- and long-term budget challenges. A commission will probably need to work toward two goals: stabilizing the debt in the medium term, and then bringing it down to manageable levels over the longer term,” MacGuineas said.

“The most important ingredient for success is that there is bipartisan buy-in. Nothing should be taken off the table in establishing a commission, both to help facilitate broad buy-in and because the problem is so large that all policy options will have to be considered” said MacGuineas.

 

Click here for a pdf version of this release.

For press inquiries, please contact Kate Brown at (202) 596-3365 or brown@newamerica.net.

 

Follow the House's Lead: Pay for the Extenders

CHAIRMAN
Bill Frenzel
Tim Penny
Charlie Stenholm

 
PRESIDENT
Maya MacGuineas
­­­
 
DIRECTORS
Barry Anderson
Roy Ash
Charles Bowsher
Steve Coll
Dan Crippen
Vic Fazio
Willis Gradison
William Gray, III
William Hoagland
Douglas Holtz-Eakin
Jim Jones
Lou Kerr
Jim Kolbe
James Lynn
James McIntrye, Jr.
David Minge
Jim Nussle
Marne Obernauer, Jr.
June O'Neill
Rudolph Penner
Peter Peterson
Robert Reischauer
Alice Rivlin
Martin Sabo
Gene Steuerle
David Stockman
Paul Volcker
Carol Cox Wait
David M. Walker
Joseph Wright, Jr.
 

SENIOR ADVISORS
Elmer Staats
Robert Strauss
 
 
 


Follow the House's Lead: Pay for the Extenders
December 10, 2009



Yesterday, the House passed a $31 billion “tax extenders” bill to renew a number of tax rates for another year. The last minute passage of this legislation is part of an all too regular end of year crunch, since a number of expiring tax and spending provisions have not yet been renewed.

Often in the past, in the rush to leave town for the holidays, the House and Senate have simply extended the programs for a year without regard for cost. We commend the House for fully offsetting the costs of their tax extenders bill, but worry that other changes may be deficit-financed. This year, given the fiscal crisis facing the nation, we urge Congress to avoid the easy solution and find ways to offset the full cost of their actions.

“Ideally, policymakers would sit down and make rational decisions about what provisions are worth keeping in the first place,” said Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “But if they are going to insist on a band-aid solution, the least they could do is pay for it.”

Among the other major items likely to be extended are:

  • An Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) Patch. Because the AMT is not indexed to inflation, it threatens to hit an increasing number of middle-income and upper-income earners each year. To avert this scenario, Congress regularly “patches” the AMT. Last year’s patch, enacted as part of the stimulus bill, cost almost $70 billion.
  • A Medicare Physician Payment Update. Under current law, payments to physicians are scheduled to fall by 21 percent next year. In past years though, policy makers have replaced these cuts with a payment freeze or a small increase. A one-year fix would probably cost more than $10 billion.


 

 


  • Unemployment Benefits. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) both extended and expanded unemployment benefits significantly. This program is set to expire at the end of the year. Unemployment rates remain persistently high and Congressman Jim McDermott has introduced legislation which would extend these benefits through March of 2011. According to press accounts, this would cost about $85 billion.
  • COBRA Subsidies. The ARRA also included a 65 percent subsidy for unemployed workers who held on to their health care benefits through COBRA rules. Since these subsidies could only be taken for nine months, they have recently lapsed for some individuals; and by the end of the year, no new individuals will be eligible for the subsidy. According to press accounts, renewing these subsidies would cost about $15 billion.
  • The Estate Tax. Under current law, the estate tax is expected to disappear at the end of the year, and then come back the next year, with a higher rate and much lower exemption than currently exists. Few policymakers or experts support this disappearing-reappearing act. Keeping it at 2009 levels next year would actually raise money. But if such a freeze were made permanent, as the House has proposed, it would cost almost $235 billion over the next decade.
  • Payments to Seniors. Because prices have fallen, Social Security beneficiaries will receive no cost of living adjustment (COLA) this year. This has led the administration and others to call for a second round of the $250 payments to seniors originally enacted in the ARRA. These payments would likely cost a little less than $15 billion.

Including the tax extenders bill, renewing these measures could cost more than $225 billion, mostly spent over one year. Fortunately, the tax extenders legislation was passed with offsetting revenue raisers.

“Kudos to the House for paying for this policy” said MacGuineas.

But Congress may use gimmicks to pay for some of these other measures (for example, using TARP money), and might not offset other changes at all. Congress should avoid such tactics and simply pay for whatever legislation they pass.

“Two hundred and twenty-five billion dollars? It seems like every year is worse than the last,” MacGuineas said. “When the Bush tax cuts expire next year, we’ll be talking about trillions. We’re in fiscal trouble here, and I don’t see things getting any better without a major change of course. Let’s at least make sure we aren’t making things worse.”


Click here for a pdf version of this release.

For press inquiries, please contact Kate Brown at (202) 596-3365 or brown@newamerica.net.

 

CRFB Supports Fiscal Task Force

CHAIRMAN
Bill Frenzel
Tim Penny
Charlie Stenholm

 
PRESIDENT
Maya MacGuineas
­­­
 
DIRECTORS
Barry Anderson
Roy Ash
Charles Bowsher
Steve Coll
Dan Crippen
Vic Fazio
Willis Gradison
William Gray, III
William Hoagland
Douglas Holtz-Eakin
Jim Jones
Lou Kerr
Jim Kolbe
James Lynn
James McIntrye, Jr.
David Minge
Jim Nussle
Marne Obernauer, Jr.
June O'Neill
Rudolph Penner
Peter Peterson
Robert Reischauer
Alice Rivlin
Martin Sabo
Gene Steuerle
David Stockman
Paul Volcker
Carol Cox Wait
David M. Walker
Joseph Wright, Jr.
 

SENIOR ADVISORS
Elmer Staats
Robert Strauss
 
 
 
 
 
 



CRFB Supports Fiscal Task Force
December 9, 2009


The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget commends Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) on their proposal - released today - to create a Bipartisan Fiscal Task Force.

With the public debt above 50 percent of GDP and rising steadily, and Americans increasingly frustrated with the inability of Washington to deal with the dire situation, some type of commission, task force, or budget summit would be a sensible approach to break through the partisan deadlock to foster fiscal responsibility.


“A bipartisan commission would greatly help politicians address the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges,” stated Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “Establishing a budget commission could send an important signal to creditors that the U.S. is serious about fixing the budget situation, create a bipartisan forum where lawmakers can hash out the compromises that will be necessary, and lend political cover for making the tough choices ahead.”

Another important benefit of a fiscal commission is that it could create a shared fiscal goal as a focal point for achieving real solutions. The bipartisan Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform, a joint venture of CRFB, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and The Pew Charitable Trusts, has been working to develop an appropriate goal for dealing with the growing debt and will release a report, Red Ink Rising: A Call to Action to Stem the Mounting Federal Debt, on December 14 at the National Press Club with a six-step plan.

“Unfortunately, the gridlocked and dysfunctional legislative process has proven unable to deal with the coming fiscal crisis, and time is quickly running out,” said MacGuineas. “Establishing a bipartisan task force that promotes collaboration and honest discourse with an expedited process for considering its recommendations can overcome the polarization and disorder in Washington to effectively fix the budget situation and place the U.S. on a sustainable fiscal path. It is less important to us the specifics of any commission or task force than the reflection that Congress and the White House are finally willing to turn their attention to this pressing problem.”



Click here for a pdf version of this release.

For press inquiries, please contact Kate Brown at (202) 596-3365 or brown@newamerica.net.

 

Where Are Those Appropriations Bills?

CHAIRMAN
Bill Frenzel
Tim Penny
Charlie Stenholm

 
PRESIDENT
Maya MacGuineas
­­­
 
DIRECTORS
Barry Anderson
Roy Ash
Charles Bowsher
Steve Coll
Dan Crippen
Vic Fazio
Willis Gradison
William Gray, III
William Hoagland
Douglas Holtz-Eakin
Jim Jones
Lou Kerr
Jim Kolbe
James Lynn
James McIntrye, Jr.
David Minge
Jim Nussle
Marne Obernauer, Jr.
June O'Neill
Rudolph Penner
Peter Peterson
Robert Reischauer
Alice Rivlin
Martin Sabo
Gene Steuerle
David Stockman
Paul Volcker
Carol Cox Wait
David M. Walker
Joseph Wright, Jr.
 

SENIOR ADVISORS
Elmer Staats
Robert Strauss


Where Are Those Appropriations Bills?
December 7, 2009


More than two months after the start of Fiscal Year 2010, only five of the twelve appropriations bills necessary to continue government functions have been enacted. Congress’s continued poor track record in fulfilling its fundamental obligation to fund the operations of government in an efficient manner exposes the need for budget process reform.


“If we can’t do something as simple as passing the appropriations bills we review every year, how are we supposed to do any of the heavy lifting on the budget?” asked Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Although the House has passed all twelve of its appropriations bills, three have not been passed in the Senate, and another four are still being negotiated in Conference committee.  Since October 1, these government functions have been sustained by stopgap continuing resolutions (CR), the latest of which is set to expire on December 18th.

“With the health care debate set to take up much of the floor time in the Senate, it’s looking likely that Congress will either pass another CR or  again rely on an end-of-year omnibus to wrap up all of its unfinished business just before leaving town,” said MacGuineas. “Budgeting is one of the most basic functions of governing—there really is no excuse for failing to pass these bills.”

“How can federal agencies develop realistic 2011 budgets if they don’t even know what funds they’ll have in 2010? We need to have a serious discussion of how to improve our country’s budget process so that spending bills can receive the attention they deserve.”


Click here for a pdf version of this release.

For press inquiries, please contact Kate Brown at (202) 596-3365 or brown@newamerica.net.

 

Paying for Afghanistan Should Move Beyond Playing Politics

CHAIRMAN
Bill Frenzel
Tim Penny
Charlie Stenholm

 
PRESIDENT
Maya MacGuineas
­­­
 
DIRECTORS
Barry Anderson
Roy Ash
Charles Bowsher
Steve Coll
Dan Crippen
Vic Fazio
Willis Gradison
William Gray, III
William Hoagland
Douglas Holtz-Eakin
Jim Jones
Lou Kerr
Jim Kolbe
James Lynn
James McIntrye, Jr.
David Minge
Jim Nussle
Marne Obernauer, Jr.
June O'Neill
Rudolph Penner
Peter Peterson
Robert Reischauer
Alice Rivlin
Martin Sabo
Gene Steuerle
David Stockman
Paul Volcker
Carol Cox Wait
David M. Walker
Joseph Wright, Jr.
 

SENIOR ADVISORS
Elmer Staats
Robert Strauss
 



Paying for Afghanistan Should Move
Beyond Playing Politics
December 2, 2009

Last night, President Obama announced a plan to increase troop levels in Afghanistan by 30,000 - a change which would cost tens of billions of dollars per year. A number of Democrats opposed to this troop build up have called for a surtax to fund those operations. While politics, as opposed to fiscal responsibility, may be the impetus for the proposal, the idea of paying for the plan should not be dismissed.
 
"Asking policymakers to actually pay for their policy actions should not be such a radical concept," said Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "An essential aspect of budgeting is deciding how to pay for things."
 
The 2010 budget deficit is expected to top $1 trillion. Meanwhile, $944 billion has already been appropriated for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other war-related activities, including $154 billion in FY2009. The troop increase is likely to cost around $30 billion this year.
 
Deficit financing the wars thus far has not only broken practice with past wars, which have been paid for in part with new taxes, it has added tremendously to the national debt - now over $12 trillion. Responsible leadership requires offsetting the new costs through spending cuts, tax increases, or a combination of the two.
 
"Deeming a particular initiative as vital to the national interest should not exempt it from being paid for," said MacGuineas. "The purpose of having a federal budget is to induce the President and Congress to make difficult choices and prioritize their objectives. That discipline has been lost in recent years and must be regained. Perhaps requiring the Afghanistan troop build up to be paid for will encourage leaders to find excesses elsewhere in the budget that can be curbed or eliminated."

For press inquiries, please contact Kate Brown at (202) 596-3365 or brown@newamerica.net.

 

Senate Health Bill Needs Stronger Focus on Cost Control

 

Senate Health Bill Needs Stronger Focus on Cost Control

 November 19, 2009

Late yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The $848 billion bill would reduce the deficit by $130 billion over the next decade, although $72 billion comes from the CLASS Act, which most experts do not consider an authentic offset. In the next decade, the bill would reduce the deficit by around one quarter of one percent of GDP.

Although this deficit reduction represents an important step in controlling the debt, this bill does not go far enough in controlling long-term health care costs or bringing Medicare and Medicaid under control.

"The original Senate Finance bill was projected to save half a percent of GDP in the second decade, the next version a quarter to a half, and this version only a quarter,” said Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “Considering the dismal state of our budget, we need to do better.”

The Senate bill includes two important offsets which that are not in the House bill, which are likely to slow health care cost growth: a tax on high cost health insurance plans and a commission to reform and reduce Medicare payments. Unfortunately, the scope of both provisions has been narrowed in this bill. It reduces the strength of the commission by increasing the cost threshold the commission has before it can cut costs, and it amends the tax to apply to plans of $8,500 ($23,000 for families), as opposed to $8,000 ($21,000 for families). Replacing these pay-fors is an increase in the Medicare payroll tax for high earners. Additionally, some of the deficit reduction to meet the $900 billion threshold comes from timing delays that push back the start date for most of the coverage provisions.

“While this bill does a better job than the House version at reducing the deficit and controlling costs, it still doesn’t do enough,” MacGuineas concluded. “Given the political system’s aversion to tax increases and spending cuts, I worry about what the final bill will look like; politicians need to refocus their energy on the critical priority of controlling costs.”

In the coming days and weeks, the Senate will debate the current bill, and if it is passed, will need to reconcile it with the House bill. CRFB has put together several charts comparing these two bills.

 

Comparison of Senate Bill to Finance and HELP Committee Bills Comparison of House and Senate Health Reform Bills

Click to enlarge       


Click to enlarge

Click here for a PDF version of this release. 

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