, Salem, MA


October 24, 2013

Watson: Americans would embrace a budget deal


That is because — again in tension with debt reduction — there is some recession-fighting benefit to bolstering the economy by carefully increasing government spending in areas where it could foster employment, supplement private investment, or build public works and infrastructure to bulwark businesses and communities.

Nonetheless, the country needs a long-term plan to address our unsustainable spending. Such a plan would be comprehensive and would contain alterations to the tax code, gradual reductions in specific programs, and appropriate increases in certain revenues or taxes.

It is important to note one likely characteristic of any feasible plan. Mathematically — and given political realities — it can be pretty well established that any 10-, 20-, or 30-year blueprint to reduce our overall debt must almost necessarily include both spending cuts and revenue increases. That circumstance may not please those who oppose any new taxes whatsoever, or those who resist any social-program cuts whatsoever, but it is hard to imagine Congress adopting a plan that contains only one of those parts.

Politically, nothing less will fly. It is highly unlikely that any one ideological purity could prevail — even if it were wise. That is part of why the budget committee is so important. If its diverse, but manageable, group can seize the opportunity, admit the inevitability of compromise — from all blocs — and put forward a short- and long-term budget proposal, Congress as a whole might just be able to stomach it.

Each committee member, and Congress, can know right up front (today) that the final proposal will be inevitably flawed, incomplete, contain errors in judgment, have unintended consequences, be an ideological hybrid and produce mixed results. But if it cuts spending, raises revenue and points us toward fiscal health, and if it does that with a semblance of fairness, then Congress should be prepared to accept it.

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