…because I’m an economist and a mom–that’s why!

“Fiscal Solutions” with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer Today!

April 1st, 2010 . by economistmom


No longer is Concord in “wake up” to fiscal reality mode–we are trying to discuss “solutions” now.  Today’s event at the University of Maryland, with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, is a prime example.  (You’ve heard how much I admire “Steadfast Steny” before.)

As the Concord announcement explains:

Date and Time:

Thursday, April 1, 2010 - 4:00pm - 5:30pm


University of Maryland
Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center
Orem Alumni Hall
College Park,

The Concord Coalition and the University of Maryland School of Public Policy’s Saul I. Stern Professorship of Civic Engagement will be hosting the Fiscal Solutions Tour on Thursday, April 1, 2010 at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center on the Unviersity of Maryland campus in College Park, Maryland.  This public discussion about our nation’s fiscal future will feature United States House of Representatives Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer.

There will be panel discussion featuring:

David M. Walker, former Comptroller General of the United States and President & CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation

Robert L. Bixby, Executive Director of The Concord Coalition

William D. Novelli, former President of AARP, and Professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University

Andrew G. Biggs, former Principal Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, and Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

This panel of nationally recognized experts will discuss the urgent need to address our nation’s unsustainable fiscal outlook and propose potential solutions.

For more information click here:

And note the event will be live-streamed (we hope) from this page.  Please tune in if you can’t join us in person!

Steadfast Steny

March 1st, 2010 . by economistmom


House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer gave a speech on fiscal responsibility at the Brookings Institution today. He reaffirmed his strong faith in PAYGO (pay-as-you-go) budget rules as “so valuable” to the cause–although he acknowledged the large exemptions for current policy and at the same time brushed that qualification aside a little too easily (for my tastes).

But my favorite part was when he talked about how the politically easy choices are the economically devastating ones:

The most important lesson we can draw from the years of recklessness is this: when it comes to budgeting, what is politically easy is often fiscally deadly. It is easier to pay for tax cuts with borrowed money than with lower spending; easier to hide the true costs of war than to lay those costs before the people; easier to promise special cost-of-living adjustments than explain why an increase is not justified under the formula in law; easier to promise 95% of Americans that we won’t consider raising their taxes than to ask all Americans to contribute for the common good. Those kinds of easy choices are so often selfish choices—because they leave the chore of cleaning up to someone else. Easy choices may be popular—but the popularity is bought on credit.

Washington’s behavior will only change when the incentives change: when voters demand more responsibility, and when the political price for easy choices rises sharply. As I said, I’m hopeful that just that is happening. But the public has a responsibility, too: to educate itself about the sources of the deficit and the range of realistic solutions—not to demand that government continue to escalate entitlement payments and lower the deficit at the same time.

We can’t meet this challenge unless the public is ready to confront tough choices, and unless leaders in both parties are ready to be honest about tough choices. When deficit solutions meet resistance, which they will, and when they are painful, which they will be, it’s our job to explain why they are also correct—and essential.

“Steadfast Steny” can talk like this without being a hypocrite, as he’s taken a lot of courageous positions and votes, even in his role as Majority Leader where he’s supposed to be worried about the politics.

UPDATE Tuesday morning: The NYTimes’ Jackie Calmes points out that Steny bravely “challenged the sacred cows in his own party” by suggesting some fairly specific options to damp down spending on Social Security and Medicare. My observation is that for most in Steny’s “own party”–including the President himself–the (Bush) tax cuts for that very-broadly-defined middle class of households with incomes under $250,000 have (bizarrely) become another “sacred cow” of theirs (the Democratic Party). And that’s the problem. How can the Democrats work in a bipartisan manner with Republicans if what they would otherwise negotiate on–in terms of “I’ll give up this (entitlement spending) if you give up that (tax cuts)”–is not really bargaining for anything they really want?

Why Care About the Deficit: Bob, Dave, & Peter Edition

February 3rd, 2010 . by economistmom

Bob (see ABC News video above):  Because the “trickle” of red ink has turned into a “flood”–and neither political party is doing enough to stem it.

Dave (from Politics Daily interview): Because it’s like a “super subprime” crisis that “mortgages the future” of our children and grandchildren.

Peter (a la the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank):  Because it’s “sexy”?…

Snow Day ’s No Day to Stop Working on Health Reform

December 19th, 2009 . by economistmom

bo-obama-in-snowBo Obama in the snow outside the White House today (photo by Getty Images from

Despite the record snowfall here in DC, the Senate made it to the office today by God (most of us couldn’t even make it past our driveways), and they made some progress on health reform, with Majority Leader Reid securing the crucial “60th vote” from Senator Nelson of Nebraska. Looks like there will be a Senate-passed bill by Christmas.

Negotiating for that 60th vote didn’t necessarily make the bill any “better” though.  (Note the official “purpose” of Leader Reid’s so-called “manager’s amendment” as written at the top of the legislative text“To improve the bill.”)  The Congressional Budget Office expresses some continued skepticism about the cost control that will be achieved under the bill, despite their official scoring of the bill as deficit reducing even beyond the prior version of the bill (emphasis added):

These longer-term calculations assume that the provisions are enacted and remain unchanged throughout the next two decades. However, the legislation would maintain and put into effect a number of procedures that might be difficult to sustain over a long period of time. Under current law and under the proposal, payment rates for physicians’ services in Medicare would be reduced by about 21 percent in 2010 and then decline further in subsequent years. At the same time, the legislation includes a number of provisions that would constrain payment rates for other providers of Medicare services. In particular, increases in payment rates for many providers would be held below the rate of inflation. The projected longer-term savings for the legislation also assume that the Independent Payment Advisory Board is fairly effective in reducing costs beyond the reductions that would be achieved by other aspects of the legislation.

Based on the longer-term extrapolation, CBO expects that inflation-adjusted Medicare spending per beneficiary would increase at an average annual rate of less than 2 percent during the next two decades under the legislation—about half of the roughly 4 percent annual growth rate of the past two decades. It is unclear whether such a reduction in the growth rate could be achieved, and if so, whether it would be accomplished through greater efficiencies in the delivery of health care or would reduce access to care or diminish the quality of care.

And a CQ story [accessible via subscription only] explains part of what turned Senator Nelson around (emphasis added):

As expected, the manager’s amendment to the bill (HR 3590) would drop a new government-run insurance plan, or public option, that is dear to liberals…

The amendment also tightens restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion…

Nelson also won an assortment of smaller changes to the bill that would assist rural hospitals — important to his state — and increase payments for Nebraska’s Medicaid program. “I will vote for health care reform because it will deliver relief from rising health care costs to Nebraska families, workers, rural communities and employers,” he said in a statement…

[T]hanks to the manager’s amendment, Nebraska would receive 100 percent federal financing for new Medicaid beneficiaries in perpetuity

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he negotiated with Nelson over a period of “many, many weeks,” but played down the idea that Nelson received special treatment not afforded other senators. He said the manager’s amendment reflected “a number of different interests” of various senators.

“You will find a number of states are treated differently than other states,” Reid said. “That’s what legislation is all about. It’s compromise.”

Reid said the legislation included various provisions designed “to get a number of different people’s votes.”

So ’s no day to stop working, but maybe it’s the perfect day for a “snow job” on how politics as usual is producing better government?…

What Does a Fiscal Steward Look Like?

December 10th, 2009 . by economistmom

Well, they come in lots of varieties and come from all different parts of the country.  Here’s a neat little video CNN-Money produced out of their tagging along with the Concord Coalition’s “fiscal advisory councils”–whose representatives came to DC earlier this week to take their message (and model good behavior) to Congress.

…and A Side Note to Readers:  By the way, this is “Nutcracker week” on the homefront–which means I don’t have much time to think and write because I’m spending most of this week doing things like shopping for false eyelashes, sewing ribbons onto ballet slippers, and attending performances (as well as attending to injuries).  Glad there are so many good things out there to point to in place of doing my own work!…  ;)

Modeling Fiscal Responsibility (vs Protesting It)

December 8th, 2009 . by economistmom

At our national conference on fiscal stewardship on Capitol Hill yesterday, the Concord Coalition released a report containing the recommendations of its nationwide “fiscal advisory councils.”  The report is impressive, not so much for its length and the number and variety of policy recommendations (you can certainly find even more pages and more policies in the CBO’s “budget options” volumes), but rather because it represents the culmination of a “mini political process” of sorts, where diverse groups of people came together to learn, discuss, and debate the various tough choices necessary to achieve fiscal sustainability, and yet ultimately came to consensus about some general principles and some specific policies.

As Concord’s press release explains:

Hoping to protect their children and grandchildren from a dismal economic future, concerned citizens across the country are prepared to make the difficult choices necessary to put government finances on a more responsible path.

This becomes clear in a report released today by The Concord Coalition on the first year of its Fiscal Stewardship Project. Supported by a grant from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the project established six advisory councils around the country to study the long-term fiscal and economic challenges facing the United States and to recommend possible solutions.

The fiscal advisory councils were formed in Atlanta, Iowa, Milwaukee, Northern California, Northern Virginia and Philadelphia. In addition, a special student engagement project was conducted in Denver.

“Politicians may be surprised at how emphatic ordinary citizens are about fiscal responsibility and what solutions they are prepared to consider once they have studied the issues,” said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition. “The work of the fiscal advisory councils should demonstrate to elected officials that their constituents are ready and willing to help make the hard choices that good fiscal stewardship requires now and for future generations.”

Concord’s report includes an overview followed by individual reports from each of the advisory councils that present their findings and recommendations on everything from new taxes to reductions in entitlement benefits.

While each fiscal advisory council approached its work differently, eight central themes emerged:

  • Disappointment and frustration with Washington
  • A preference for broad, sweeping reforms rather than piecemeal efforts
  • A sense of urgency
  • The essential need for improvements in the health care system
  • A willingness to consider significant changes in Social Security
  • Deep concern for future generations
  • The need to better educate the public
  • Commitments to future action

“Advisory council members across the country are disappointed that Washington has failed to exercise greater responsibility in handling the nation’s finances,” the project overview says. “They decried a long and continuing pattern of elected and appointed federal officials failing to set meaningful budget priorities, borrowing more than was necessary, and refusing to pursue obviously needed reforms in both the public and private sectors.”

In other words, Concord’s fiscal stewardship project and the great work and dedication of its fiscal advisory councils are intended to inspire fiscally responsible behavior by modeling good behavior.  It’s a totally different strategy from, say, participating in tea-party protests or otherwise opposing specific policies that threaten the generosity of one’s own government benefits.’s Jeanne Sahadi covered yesterday’s event and wrote this story, pointing out that:

Unlike politicians, [Concord's fiscal advisory] councils were able to deliberate without worrying about getting re-elected. They were outside the partisan cauldron that contorts the statements of even the most level-headed politician.

The councils were not unanimous in their suggestions. But there were some commonalities. Chief among them: disappointment with Washington, and in particular, politicians’ use of budget tricks to disguise the true cost of legislation. The Milwaukee council didn’t mince words, referring to “an overarching failure in the management of the nation’s business.”

The councils prefer sweeping reform to half-measures.

“We must examine the policy goals of all taxes and expenditures, change entitlement programs, cut all federal expenses that do not meet our goals and, if necessary, raise taxes,” the Northern California council concluded.

And when it comes to facing up to fiscal challenges, they would like lawmakers to make it snappy. “The sooner policymakers get working on solutions, the better,” the Philadelphia council wrote…

The Atlanta council put it this way: “If Americans don’t make the hard decisions now, it will have a devastating impact on the quality of life for our children and grandchildren.”

And Jeanne shot some video interviews of a few of the advisory council members, which I’ll be sure to share with you here once they’re up on later this week.  You’ll be impressed.  Our advisory council members meet with their respective members of Congress today (as I write!), and I hope the politicians will be impressed (and impressionable), too.

Heading Out to Denver

October 20th, 2009 . by economistmom


I’m on the road for the next few days, traveling to Denver to participate in a Concord-sponsored student summit on fiscal responsibility, “Paying for America,” on Thursday at the University of Denver.  I plan to blog and tweet and maybe even vlog from there–while IOUSA movie director Patrick Creadon and his crew are available to give me some basic pointers, and while I have lots of my expert fiscal policy friends around.  The latest installment of the IOUSA-featured “Fiscal Wake-Up Tour” will be held on Thursday evening and is open to the general public.

***UPDATE (4 pm, Denver):  Note that the whole day’s events will be webcast LIVE on Concord’s website, and the recorded video will be available on our website as soon as possible afterward.***

I’ll try to keep up with the inside-the-Beltway happenings while out of town, too.  Stay tuned.

Oh, an update on my comments situation:  I am still getting hit by tons of spam comments.  Right now, if you have had a comment published on before, any new comments of yours will publish immediately.  For anyone else, your comments are held for moderation until I can “approve” it.

The (Virtual) Fiscal Wake-Up Tour on Health Care Reform

September 12th, 2009 . by economistmom

At the Concord Coalition we’re trying to spread our word more efficiently lately using video technology. Here’s an example–this set of video clips of the “first string” “Fiscal Wake-Up Tour” team (my boss Bob Bixby, the Peterson Foundation’s Dave Walker, the Heritage Foundation’s Stuart Butler, and the Brookings Institution’s Belle Sawhill) talking about health care reform.

I myself will soon venture into video blogging; I’ve recently been invited by Thomson-Reuters to be a “vlogger” on their new “Project Insider” internet video network, where I’ll eventually have my own “channel”. (How cool is that?!) Stay tuned; I’ll be soliciting ideas…although it’s probably going to take a few months for me to get up to speed. (I don’t even have my own video camera yet–apart from the one that I think is built into my laptop but which I’ve never used…)

The Fiscal Wake Up Tour Goes On…Watch It LIVE on Budget-Day Tuesday!

August 25th, 2009 . by economistmom


We at the Concord Coalition are venturing into new territory today; the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour will be webcasted live on our site (we hope!)… (As if today were not exciting enough with both the Administration and CBO updated budget outlooks coming out!)

Here’s our announcement:


On Tuesday, August 25th, from 12:30 pm – 2pm, United States Senator Susan Collins will join The Concord Coalition’s Bob Bixby, the Honorable David M. Walker of The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, William Marshall of The Progressive Policy Institute and Stuart Butler of The Heritage Foundation for a presentation of The Concord Coalition’s Fiscal Wake-Up Tour in Kennebunkport, Maine.

We invite you this watch this event live at:

The Fiscal Wake-Up Tour aims to explain in plain terms why budget analysts of diverse perspectives are increasingly alarmed by the nation’s fiscal outlook. The Fiscal Wake-Up Tour has been profiled in “60 Minutes” and a recent documentary entitled I.O.U.S.A.

Please join us online!

Budgetball on the Mall

June 14th, 2009 . by economistmom


I have been goofing off, and here’s where I was today–at Budgetball on the Mall.  I didn’t play, and the Concord/Brookings team was eliminated in the first round (losing to the Urban Institute’s team***UPDATED: that’s Bob Reischauer, President of Urban, in action above), but it was a glorious day on the Mall, and it was great fun being a spectator and part of the broader “fiscal fanatics” team.  We at Concord are working with the “youth” segment of the fiscal responsibility movement this week.  I’ll be posting more on this (and probably some photos and video links) later this week.

UPDATED:  The Politico published this story on the games Sunday night.  For those of you wondering how the various teams did and what makes for a strong Budgetball team (is it mostly one’s budgeting skills or mostly one’s balling skills?):

…for all their financial know-how, teams from the House Budget Committee, the Treasury and OMB fell short against the teams from University of Miami and Arkansas’s Philander Smith University. The college teams battled it out in a close final match, with University of Miami ultimately talking top tournament honors.

The Miami players were secretive about their strategy—”take your sacrifices early” was all that one player revealed before his teammates cut him off. But it didn’t hurt that the team was comprised of flag football players and a track and field runner.

As [Peter G. Peterson Foundation CEO David] Walker said, when asked to describe the ideal team, “You want at least one person who can add and think strategy. Then, you probably want five athletes.”

And here’s a link to a story on Budgetball in Monday’s Washington Times.

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