Getting Back in the Black

Nov 10, 2010

The Peterson-Pew Commission report, Getting Back in the Black, details major revisions, concentrating on three primary areas of improvement, called the “Three Ts”: creating fiscal targets; establishing automatic budgetary triggers; and increasing transparency of budgetary information and procedures. 

The Commission supports enacting budget limits that would be automatically enforced through broad spending cuts and tax increases—if policy makers fail to make necessary legislative changes.  Specifically, the Commission recommends that Congress and the President:

  • Adopt medium-term, long-term and annual limits on the amount the government can borrow as a share of national income. The targets are intended to commit the government in advance to a path of borrowing consistent with economic stability; 
  • Establish multi-year annual caps for spending and tax expenditures that are consistent with the enacted debt targets;
  • Create automatic triggers to keep budget plans on track and control the major drivers of the growing debt; and
  • Improve the timeliness, completeness and transparency of information used in the budget process to better inform policy makers and increase their accountability for all budget decisions. 

In January 2011, Philip G. Joyce, Professor of Management, Finance and Leadership at the University of Maryland, wrote Strengthening the Budget Committees: Institutional Reforms to Promote Fiscally Responsible Budgeting in Congress. This paper was commissioned to provide additional analysis on one of the issues raised by the Peterson-Pew Commission. In particular, it reviews an option for changing the structure of the congressional budget committees.

In March 2011, Paul Posner, Professor and Director of the Public Administration Program at George Mason University, wrote Will it Take a Crisis? This paper acknowledges that there is significant risk of a financial crisis, but questions whether it is a pre-ordained outcome based on the historical and international evidence that  shows the United States’ policy process has more capacity to act before a crisis than many people commonly recognize.

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