Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Brookings on the Federal Budget

There is an interesting commentary by Robert Samuelson. He discusses a recent Brookings Institution study.
"Let me say that, in many ways, 'Restorying Fiscal Sanity 2005' is a swell report. It's a lucid and fact-filled budget primer. It proves, if proof were needed, that an aging society is the central budget problem and that almost everything else is a footnote. Indeed, the report usefully shows that, depending on how rapidly health costs grow, the budget outlook goes from abysmal to catastrophic."

". . . .In 2005, all federal spending -- the entire budget -- is 20 percent of GDP; Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid together equal 8.4 percent of GDP. By 2030, those three programs alone cost somewhere between 14 percent of GDP (lower health spending) and 17 percent (higher health spending). Inescapably, we get one or all of the following: exploding budget deficits; staggering tax increases; draconian cuts in other government programs; and abrupt reductions in services for the elderly."
Not a pretty picture, eh?
"So what does the Brookings study advise? Well, nothing. It presents various budget 'options' -- larger government, smaller government and so forth -- and possible tax increases or spending cuts. . . Asked why Brookings' experts couldn't craft a plan, co-editor Isabel Sawhill said: 'That requires values judgments -- and we don't all agree among outselves.' "
Duh.
"But if people who think constantly about government -- and don't face elections or angry voters -- won't make the hard choices, why should politicians?"
This seems an interesting and relevant question.

The question might not be so relevant if WE THE PEOPLE tended to elect true leaders as our representatives in Congress. Instead we elect people who seem more like followers since so many seem comfortable trying to run from tackling needed social security reform. It seems too many members in Congress hide from the hard choices that good governance requires.

In any case, while Samuelson's criticism of Brookings is justified, if you want to learn more about the Federal Government's budget the report by Brookings is worth looking at.

1 comment:

scribo said...

Of note, again, is that health care costs are a major driver for how high the share of GDP from the Federal budget might be. Not only do our leaders not want to do much about Social Security, they want to "enhance" rather than address Medicare. Medicare has an incredibly huge new population joining in soon, reflects most of the problems of the health care system, seems to be in thrall of the pharmacy and insurance providers, and is going broke sooner than Social Security. And still we clamor for everything medical science can provide, regardless of cost. Since a "third party" is paying. Except the third party for Medicare is you and me.
We the People need to look at the facts--not the commercials, or attack ads, or scare tactics--and provide direction for our leaders.