This Week In Fiscal Irresponsibility

By John Lumbard.

  This is shaping up to be a big week for debt and deficits.  The U.S. Senate is deep in discussions and negotiations regarding Senate Joint Resolutions 3,4,5, and 10.  The President is going to deliver a speech Wednesday afternoon at George Washington University (apparently without TV coverage) that will lay out his ideas for reducing the deficit, and six Senators—three from each political party—are still working behind closed doors to get the public (and the President) to accept the recommendations of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility.

Lastly, I’ll be speaking on behalf of Americans for a Balanced Budget Amendment, on the Boston Common on Friday at 4:30 or so.  Look for the Parkman Bandstand, about half way between the Boston Common Parking Garage and Tremont Street.  In satellite photos it looks like a wagon wheel . . . . Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, will speak after 6:00.  I don’t know a great deal about him, but he’s widely believed to be preparing a run for the Presidency in 2012.  After seeing a poll saying that Donald Trump is running #2 on the Republican side I’m hoping that Pawlenty will enter the race soon.

We’ll all be thrilled if President Obama and Paul Ryan can agree on the hard questions of the budget, and get the House and the Senate to fall in line.  We suspect that the congressional desire to get re-elected will overpower the forces of good government.  Even if the fiscally-responsible guys win we would still want a constitutional amendment—because they are only going to be around for a few years. 

In the mid-nineties Congress was filled with good legislators who actually balanced the FY 2000 budget, with no gimmicks but with a little help from the stock market bubble.  Just two years later they let the “Paygo” mechanism for budget discipline expire, and soon after launched a big expansion of Medicare and tax cuts.   

Congressmen need new rules that will force them to do their jobs—their primary jobs—because they’re hardly ever going to have the discipline to produce budgets on their own.

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