Budget Day

I think the release of a presidential budget request would be a very interesting thing were we in a situation where the president’s party controlled congress. Congress never just does what the president wants, but his agenda-setting powers are formidable under that kind of situation. Given the control of the US House of Representatives by feisty “young gun” conservatives, I’m not really sure what delving into the accomplishes.

So instead an observation. If for some reason you think that making politically credible commitments in 2011 to reducing the budget deficit in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 is important, you could always do the following. Have the President of the United States say the words “I will veto any legislation that increases the medium-term budget deficit. Yes that means extension of the Bush tax cuts. Yes that means the Medicare ‘doc fix.'” That doesn’t mean we can’t extend some or all of the Bush tax cuts or keep paying doctors lots of money for Medicare treatments, but it would mean congress needs to develop pay-fors. The deficit-reducing punch of that simple commitment—”no need deficit increasing bills signed into law”—is actually quite dramatic. And it can be implemented unilaterally.