PPI Proposes ‘Galvanic’ Change in Federal Expenditures and Taxes

July 26, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – If anyone doubted there’s serious interest in getting a handle on the nation’s debt and the federal budget, the standing room-only crowd that jammed a hearing room in the Longworth House Office Building Thursday afternoon would have quickly persuaded them otherwise.

The event was the lunchtime “Forum of Building a Better Budget,” and its hosts were the Blue Dog Coalition of moderate, fiscally-responsible Democrats, and the Progressive Policy Institute, a think tank dedicated to fiscal pragmatism and breaking partisan deadlock.

The second hour of the forum would feature a frank discussion of this week’s agreement to lift the nation’s debt ceiling and raise caps set on federal spending with Representatives Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., Ben McAdams, D-Utah, and Ed Case, D-Hawaii, all of the Blue Dog Coalition.

Preceding them was a panel discussion moderated by Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute.

It featured Ben Ritz, director of the Center for Funding America’s Future at PPI; Marc Goldwein, senior vice president of the Committee for a Responsible Budget; and Emily Holubowich, executive director of the Coalition for Health Funding and co-Founder of NDD United, an alliance working to protect investments in core government function.

If there was a foreboding consensus, it was summed up early by Holubowich, who spoke of how unfortunate it was that debt “has become a political tool” and of how deficit reduction should be a prime concern of everyone who works on Capitol Hill.

“You can’t just continue to spend and spend,” she said.

But all conceded breaking the cycle of spending in Washington won’t be easy.

“The reality is the American public doesn’t understand its culpability in this situation,” Goldwein said. “You cannot as a citizen expect to get everything you want and not pay for it.”

“The reality is the American public doesn’t understand its culpability in this situation,” Goldwein said. “You cannot as a citizen expect to get everything you want and not pay for it.”

Central to the discussion was a budget plan Ritz has written with Brendan McDermott, a fiscal policy analyst at the Progressive Policy Institute.

The premise of the so-called “Budget for Equitable Growth” is that in recent years lawmakers have been borrowing far too heavily to finance present consumption and neglecting to make “robust” public investments in scientific research, infrastructure and education, which Ritz and McDermott call “the foundation of American progress.”

Along with this, the duo also propose making adjustments to federal health and retirement programs to reflect the nation’s aging society,  and revamping the tax code so that it actually pays the nation’s bills.

“If enacted in their entirety, these proposals would increase federal public investment spending by more than 70 percent over current projections while simultaneously putting the federal budget on a path toward balance,” Ritz said.

He emphasized, however, that a balanced budget isn’t a core objective of his and McDermott’s proposal. Rather, he said, “we seek to break the fiscal impasse in Washington that starves public investment, handcuffs future policymakers, and fuels unsustainable public debt.”

Moderator Marshall said the plan in its entirety — filling some 96 pages — represents a “galvanic” change in thinking of the federal budget.

Goldwein said selling such a plan would entail “connecting the dots’ for the American public.

“People are more open to paying more in taxes if they understand what those taxes are doing for them,” he said.

The bottom line, said Ritz, “is that if we keep doing two-year budget deals in the name of fleeting victories, it’s just going to make it harder to pay for what we need long term.”

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