In Red Ink Rising: A Call to Action to Stem the Mounting Federal Debt, The Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform calls on policy makers to stabilize debt held by the public at 60 percent of GDP. Given our current fiscal path, reaching this debt goal will not be easy. While the Peterson-Pew Commission does not endorse specific tax and spending policies to meet this goal, Budget Blueprint: Paths to 60% aims to demonstrate the types and magnitude of necessary policy changes.
This paper examines the Obama administration budget reform proposals and evaluates how (and if) they would improve the budget process and restore fiscal responsibility. In particular, the paper examines the administration’s proposed changes to the calculation of the budget baseline and its reintroduction of a statutory pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) framework.
The CBO recently projected a ten-year deficit of $7.1 trillion using a "current law" baseline. But these numbers may prove to be optimistic. CRFB argues that four major assumptions in the baseline are unlikely to materialize, leading to a ten-year deficit of $12.6 trillion. This paper discusses US Budget Watch's own "current policy" baseline, which assumes particular policies do not conform to current law.
With the retirement of the baby boom generation drawing closer, concerns about the sustainability of current policies have become critical elements of the budget process. The seriousness of this problem should prompt us to reexamine the concepts and goals underpinning the budget process and find ways to focus budget decision-makers on the long-term implications of our current policy paths. This paper reviews some of these challenges and recommends ways they might be addressed.