My book Balancing the Budget is a Progressive Priority has been published by Springer. It is also available from other sources, including itunes and will be on Kindle soon.
The crux of my argument is that Progressives need a balanced federal budget more than Conservatives, both to provide room for new government action when needed (economic stimulus, infrastructure, education, energy), as well as to protect the key programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. For this reason, developing a long term plan to balance the federal budget should be at the top of the Progressive agenda, because without doing so, the ability to address Progressive priorities via government action will be rendered moot.
We cannot and should not get to a sustainable budget immediately, but we need a credible long term plan. Such a plan might even make short term investments and stimulus more plausible. Balancing provides such a plan that will require an increase in taxes compared to historical levels and a reduction in federal spending as compared to future default spending over the next several decades. Specifically, the book suggests:
- Next steps on health reform that will hold up regardless of what the Supreme Court rules. The heart of the proposal is federally-guaranteed catastrophic insurance implemented via Medicare, with gap insurance available in state-based exchanges. Without profound health reform, we will never have another balanced budget.
- Reform of Social Security sooner rather than later with Progressive goals such as increasing the minimum benefit at the fore. Social Security should be taken off the table by fixing its long range fiscal imbalance.
- Proposals for how the mix of taxes used by the federal government might be changed to bring in enough revenue to fund a plausible level of spending.
- A way to think about Military spending as compared to the rest of the budget.
The CBO noted last week that delay of hard decisions only leaves of us with fewer options. I agree, and the federal budget will one day be overhauled substantially; the premise of the book is that Progressives should drive this agenda to best represent our long term policy interests and goals. I realize this post glances over lots of material and ideas, some of which will be viewed skeptically by many Progressives. I will be doing follow up blogging to try and clarify my points, as well as to listen to your thoughts.
As an aside, it was very hard to write a book that focused on a topic in the news. I self published an earlier version in August 2011, and this is a more complete and revised argument, completed quickly after the Super Committee reached no agreement and tweaked after the payroll tax extension in February 2012. In short, it about killed me, so of course my 17 year old daughter said when I showed her a copy “Dad, it is really a short book; that couldn’t have been that hard.”