Steny Hoyer on US budget: Politically easy is fiscally deadly(Read article summary)
House majority leader Steny Hoyer speaks out on the US budget process.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer gave a speech on fiscal responsibility at the Brookings Institution today. He reaffirmed his strong faith in PAYGO (pay-as-you-go) budget rules as â€śso valuableâ€ť to the causeâ€“although he acknowledged the large exemptions for current policy and at the same time brushed that qualification aside a little too easily (for my tastes).
But my favorite part was when he talked about how the politically easy choices are the economically devastating ones:
The most important lesson we can draw from the years of recklessness is this: when it comes to budgeting, what is politically easy is often fiscally deadly. It is easier to pay for tax cuts with borrowed money than with lower spending; easier to hide the true costs of war than to lay those costs before the people; easier to promise special cost-of-living adjustments than explain why an increase is not justified under the formula in law; easier to promise 95% of Americans that we wonâ€™t consider raising their taxes than to ask all Americans to contribute for the common good. Those kinds of easy choices are so often selfish choicesâ€”because they leave the chore of cleaning up to someone else. Easy choices may be popularâ€”but the popularity is bought on credit.
Washingtonâ€™s behavior will only change when the incentives change: when voters demand more responsibility, and when the political price for easy choices rises sharply. As I said, Iâ€™m hopeful that just that is happening. But the public has a responsibility, too: to educate itself about the sources of the deficit and the range of realistic solutionsâ€”not to demand that government continue to escalate entitlement payments and lower the deficit at the same time.
We canâ€™t meet this challenge unless the public is ready to confront tough choices, and unless leaders in both parties are ready to be honest about tough choices. When deficit solutions meet resistance, which they will, and when they are painful, which they will be, itâ€™s our job to explain why they are also correctâ€”and essential.
â€śSteadfast Stenyâ€ť can talk like this without being a hypocrite, as heâ€™s taken a lot of courageous positions and votes, even in his role as Majority Leader where heâ€™s supposed to be worried about the politics.
UPDATE Tuesday morning: The NYTimesâ€™ Jackie Calmes points out that Steny bravely â€śchallenged the sacred cows in his own partyâ€ť by suggesting some fairly specific options to damp down spending on Social Security and Medicare. My observation is that for most in Stenyâ€™s â€śown partyâ€ťâ€“including the President himselfâ€“the (Bush) tax cuts for that very-broadly-defined middle class of households with incomes under $250,000 have (bizarrely) become another â€śsacred cowâ€ť of theirs (the Democratic Party). And thatâ€™s the problem. How can the Democrats work in a bipartisan manner with Republicans if what they would otherwise negotiate onâ€“in terms of â€śIâ€™ll give up this (entitlement spending) if you give up that (tax cuts)â€ťâ€“is not really bargaining for anything they really want?
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