Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert Bixby has been warning legislators and the White House about the dangers of the nation’s federal deficit since 2009. Bixby’s rants are now attracting the attention of many on Capitol Hill and on Wall Street, but he hopes it is not too late to impact the budget discussions.
Former Senators Warren Rudman (R-N.H.) and the late Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.) formed the non-partisan group to speak out against policies than negatively impact the country’s financial position in the early 1990s. Former Senator Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) currently co-chairs the group along with Rudman.
Bixby and the group he leads support a balanced budget amendment, but have reservations about the one Congress is presently debating. He believes that any balanced budget proposal should be thought of as “a bold statement of principle” and not bind future generations with debt burden they cannot pay back.
“The goal of limiting debt can be achieved at any particular size of government and can be implemented through both spending and tax policies,” Bixby said in a statement released by Concord today. “The whole point of a balanced budget amendment is to ensure that future generations are free to make their own fiscal decisions.”
Concord Coalition, like many others, are worried that political finger pointing is standing in the way of a workable solution being hammered out.
“For a brief time last week, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner appeared ready to challenge their respective political bases,” wrote Bixby in his blog post last Thursday. “Hopes were raised for a ‘big deal’ that would include essential compromises on popular entitlement programs and tax breaks to reduce the deficit by roughly $4 trillion over 10 years. It was a good idea, but it didn’t last long.”
With the “Gang of Six” touting their plan, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) crafting a deal that would allow the debt ceiling to be raised over time by the White House, and House Republicans passing the “cut, cap, balance” bill, Bixby says it’s no wonder the public and even legislators are confused by the debate.
Was McConnell trying to undermine Boehner by proposing his plan last week?
“No, I don’t think so,” Bixby told The Christian Post. “He was probably throwing him a life line. There is a portion of the House Republican Caucus that don’t want to vote for anything and Boehner’s challenge is to find something they can hang their hats on.”
But of all the issues addressed, Bixby feels the greatest room for error is with a poorly crafted balanced budget amendment.
“One of my first concerns is we shouldn’t write a particular size of government into the constitution – that’s what the political process is for,” said Bixby. “While we’re supportive of a balanced budget amendment written in the proper fashion, Congress still has to produce a balanced budget at some point in time and you can’t do that without tackling the big three (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) and raising revenue. Nothing else will work.”
Bixby and other budget hawks are in agreement that slowing the growth rate of entitlement programs, especially healthcare, is not only essential to a workable budget solution, but should be mandated.
“I think the Republicans have missed the opportunity to call President Obama on his promise to address entitlements,” said Bixby. “If Republicans could find it within themselves to give a little on the revenue side by using some recommendations offered by the ‘Gang of Six’ and then stare down the president on social programs, then a deal could be reached soon.”
Still, there is no concrete plan that has broad support and Republicans’ “cut, cap and balance” bill has virtually no chance of passing the Senate or being signed by President Obama.
“You know, there are … lots of ideas out there from Democrats and Republicans,” Boehner told reporters. “But guess what? None of them have a majority.”