Monday, May 10, 2010

Deficit Commission Predictions

Obama's deficit commission has been holding hearings, as has the House Agriculture Committee on the 2012 farm bill. The deficit report is due after the fall elections.

I now take up my crystal ball.  I predict the commission will include in its recommendations an across-the-board cut on much discretionary spending.  My logic is: it is very difficult to end programs; usually there are good arguments, or at least reasonable ones, for the existence and the value of the program, particularly if you ignore the costs. So it's going to be very difficult for 14 of the 18 commissioners to agree on a hit list.  Politically it's much easier to impose a flat percentage cut.  That way everyone (at least everyone in the affected programs) shares the pain and the cuts seem more equitable.

For those with short memories, or short lives, there was much concern about deficits back in the Reagan administration; that was one reason Reagan ended up signing some tax raises. Back then Congress and the administration could reach agreement on an approach to cutting deficits; it was called the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act.  In 1986 it kicked in and we ended cutting deficiency payments (and other payments) by something like 4.6 percent. 

So my prediction is history will repeat itself--the commission will propose a percentage cut like we had in 1986.

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