Five Think Tanks Attack the Deficit

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

The deficit hounds at the Pete Peterson foundation asked a bunch of think tanks to come up with their own deficit plans, and the results are sort of interesting at a 100,000 foot level. Here are their projected spending levels 25 years from now:

Of the right-wing think tanks, the Heritage Foundation is in fantasyland. They want to reduce spending to 18 percent of GDP, which is just flatly not going to happen. Social Security will not be cut by a fifth from current levels, and domestic spending will not go down to 3 percent of GDP. They’re clearly not even bothering to put forth a reality-based proposal.

AAF is slightly better at 19 percent of GDP, and they have an interesting VAT-like tax proposal that actually has the potential to increase economic growth and produce more revenue than our current system. And although they cut Social Security spending compared to promised future levels, at least they don’t pretend that we can actually cut it from current levels.

Of the lefty think tanks, BPC and EPI are too aggressive for my taste. I don’t think there’s any question that federal spending is going to increase over its historic levels (typically around 19-20 percent of GDP) by 2037. Healthcare costs are going to keep rising even if we do a great job of controlling them, and we have to face up to that. Nonetheless, I’d like to at least have a goal of keeping spending in the low 20s.

So sign me up for CAP’s vision. Their plan includes some small cuts in future benefit growth for Social Security, domestic spending at a more achievable 5 percent of GDP, and healthcare at 7 percent of GDP. That last will be tough to meet, but it’s a worthwhile goal. And their overall spending target is a bit under 23 percent of GDP. That strikes me as about right. It’s reality-based, but still makes a serious effort to keep spending under control.

There are more details at the link, but sometimes it’s worthwhile to get a big-picture view of what everyone is proposing. This is a useful chart in that regard.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate