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Scrooge, the Federal Budget, and the Things That Might Be

AUTHOR: Scott Bittle, Senior Fellow, Public Agenda
Dec 22, 2011

  A Christmas Carol is one of the great attacks on money-grubbing in Western literature. And if you’re talking about the federal budget, then Scrooge is usually invoked as an example of cold-hearted budget cutting. A Christmas Carol’s messages seem pretty obvious: Money isn’t everything. Don’t forget the poor and starving. Miserliness never pays. All [...]

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Last Minute Congressional Holiday Shopping

AUTHOR: Scott Bittle, Senior Fellow, Public Agenda
Dec 22, 2011

We all know what it’s like in December: the crowds, the shopping, the endless to-do list. You know, the end of the Congressional session. If we needed any more evidence condemning Congress’ current strategy of “let’s set a deadline and force ourselves to act,” this chart from the Pew Fiscal Analysis project makes the case. [...]

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The Tempting but Not Quite Complete Tax Debate

AUTHOR: Scott Bittle, Senior Fellow, Public Agenda
Dec 19, 2011

The greatest temptation in the budget debate is to focus on one thing. If we just do this one thing, whatever it may be, the problem will solve itself. The trouble is that the economy is so complex, with so many moving parts, that there aren’t any magic bullets. Changing one factor may help or [...]

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Getting Older, Not Wiser, on the Federal Budget

AUTHOR: Scott Bittle, Senior Fellow, Public Agenda
Dec 16, 2011

We’re all getting older. And we need to start dealing with it. As a nation, we often act like our budget problems will go away once some specific policy crisis is over. You can hear this all the time, either expressly or implied, when politicians and commentators talk about the budget: “as soon as the [...]

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Binding Obligations, Budget Excuses

AUTHOR: Scott Bittle, Senior Fellow, Public Agenda
Dec 12, 2011

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a valid legal point and an excuse. Take, for example, one point that’s come up a lot in the fight over the federal budget. It’s the principle that “no Congress can bind a future Congress.” In other words, what Congress passes today can be repealed tomorrow. The [...]

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2012: A Lost Year or Golden Opportunity on the Budget?

AUTHOR: Scott Bittle, Senior Fellow, Public Agenda
Dec 06, 2011

Is the debate we need about the national debt possible in an election year? The National Journal reports that many budget hawks aren’t giving up on pushing for change in 2012. The conventional wisdom has been that the supercommittee was the last best chance to come up with a thoughtful fiscal plan before the presidential [...]

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Doing Nothing vs Feeling Nothing on the Budget

AUTHOR: Scott Bittle, Senior Fellow, Public Agenda
Nov 29, 2011

Did the supercommittee accomplish anything by achieving nothing? Lots of people thought the panel was a bad idea to start with, on both left and right. One argument is that the supercommittee sessions may have actually moved Washington policymakers closer to common ground on a few issues, like changes to Medicare, even if the politicians [...]

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Facing Failure on the Supercommittee

AUTHOR: Scott Bittle, Senior Fellow, Public Agenda
Nov 21, 2011

So what’s the penalty if the supercommittee fails? Of course, it isn’t certain that the supercommittee will fail. Technically, the panel still has until Wednesday. But there are reports the committee will officially give up on Monday, including some from people who are serving on the panel. If it does, there are three things that [...]

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‘Nothing Beats Rock’ vs ‘Would You Rather?’ Playing the Right Game on the National Debt

AUTHOR: Scott Bittle, Senior Fellow, Public Agenda
Nov 16, 2011

For a city that prides itself on its sense of political gamesmanship, Washington’s ability to play the wrong game on the federal budget has been remarkable. It’s hard to tell from the outside, but the debate surrounding the budget and the unsustainable path we’re on has seemed a lot like the game of “rock, paper, [...]

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Dr. Strangelove, Dwight Shrute, and the Supercommittee

AUTHOR: Scott Bittle, Senior Fellow, Public Agenda
Nov 15, 2011

The problem with a Doomsday device is that everyone’s afraid to have it go off, and yet they’re also somehow unwilling to do what it takes to prevent it from going off. Otherwise, no normal person would set one up in the first place. The budget “supercommittee” is a good example. The panel, charged with [...]

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