By: Maddie Miller
There is a nationally recognized problem when it comes to the national debt and deficit. What isn’t agreed upon is as standard to reduce federal deficit in a way that is productive for the economy, while maintaining healthy foreign relationships.
At The Washington Center, two speakers presented some of the realities that are present within modern politics and the processes that exist when making changes to fiscal legislation.
Professor James Thurber pointed to gridlock and the immense amount of polarization between the parties that exists today. Some of the issues that are encountered when addressing the budget include the American views toward taxation. Most federal spending programs are considered popular. Taxes are a major way of gaining revenue for the federal government, but while re-election is often on the mind of Congress members, Congress often tries to avoid taxing. With this sort of structure in place, and recognition of the bimodal voting that occurs within Congress as the members avoid being in the middle, rather choosing to encourage more separation on the party spectrum.
Maya MacGuineas, as President of Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, focused her efforts on advocacy and information of the public and Congress on the best possible budget management. MacGuineas offered ample critiques of both parties. Similarly to Professor Thurber, MacGuineas pointed out the party polarization and the affects that it had on getting meaningful legislation and response through on budgetary matters. MacGuineas expressed that an increase in taxes and retirement age, coupled with cutting federal program funding would be beneficial to reducing the federal deficit. One suggestion of where to invest funding was discussed in terms of life-long learning in the form of worker retraining. This would allow for a more productive workforce, which could help to boost the economy in a meaningful way.
The varying approaches, and polarization of the parties seems to be exemplified by both liberal and conservative spokespeople. When looking to opinion shortcuts, each party has multiple people to turn to when informing their own personal opinion in relation to their party affiliation. Grover Norquist is one example of the conservative viewpoint on the economy. Norquist’s opposition to Hillary Clinton’s campaign platform included the increase in taxes and spending. In comparison to the Republican agenda which focuses on personal initiatives, and allowing for the accumulation of wealth by limiting the amount of taxes that are in place on the various economic classes. Representing a more liberal argument is Alice Rivlin. When applying her economic theories to the practices of politicians, she advocated for the careful use of federal spending. This was triggered by the federal bailouts of those organizations such as Bear Stearns. She suggested “public money will have to be put at risk, but it is worth it”. This sort of preference on federal spending as a way of boosting the economy is a staple of the Democratic platform.
While there are numerous options out there when dealing with the economy, it is clear that the polarization is a clear obstacle for both sides, as well as constituents.