Repeated battles over the 2011 budget are taking attention from a more dire problem—the long-run budget deficit.
Divided government is no excuse for inaction.
The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, under co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, issued a report on the problem in December supported by 11 Democrats and Republicans — a clear majority of the panel’s 18 members.
As former chairmen and chairwomen of the Council of Economic Advisers, who have served in Republican and Democratic administrations, we urge that the Bowles-Simpson report, “The Moment of Truth,” be the starting point of an active legislative process that involves intense negotiations between both parties.
There are many issues on which we don’t agree. Yet we find ourselves in remarkable unanimity about the long-run federal budget deficit: It is a severe threat that calls for serious and prompt attention.
While the actual deficit is likely to shrink over the next few years as the economy continues to recover, the aging of the baby-boom generation and rapidly rising health care costs are likely to create a large and growing gap between spending and revenues. These deficits will take a toll on private investment and economic growth. At some point, bond markets are likely to turn on the United States — leading to a crisis that could dwarf 2008.