The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

June 10, 2008

Our View: Congress not serious about budget

Congress won praise recently from the budget watchdog group Concord Coalition for passing a budget resolution in an election year for the first time since 1996

In the same vein of praise for Congress, the nonpartisan group also remarked that many of the assumptions in the budget assumed difficult choices it doubts Congress can make and assumes that $340 billion of spending will be exempt from deficit neutral budget rules known as “pay as you go.”

A month ago, the Concord Coalition’s new chief economist Diane Lim Rogers — a mother of four and former House Budget Committee economist — noted that Congress always agreed with the economics of sound budget principles and spending restraint but often was reluctant to embrace the politics of it.

Lim Rogers recently launched a blog (Economistmom.com) to promote the idea of a sound federal budget and to promote the idea that it is good politics to make sure we don’t leverage our children’s future, or create deficits that are unsustainable.

The U.S. Senate seems to be the best example so far that sound fiscal policy is not good politics. The Senate continues to reject the pay as you go rules the House has adopted. Those rules call for offsetting new spending by reducing other spending or increasing taxes to make new policies revenue neutral so as not to increase the federal deficit.

The House of course is not immune from this kind of political shying away from tough choices. The Concord Coalition’s executive director, Robert Bixby, says the budget resolution recently adopted by Congress assumes extensions of some Bush tax cuts that will cost $340 billion and are not, at least initially, offset by spending cuts or tax increases elsewhere. War costs, he said, are projected at a low-ball of $70 billion in 2009 and nothing for 2010 and 2012.

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