Fiscal Solutions: A Balanced Plan for Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth

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Introduction

Our country faces a serious fiscal crisis. According to President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the nation is on an unsustainable fiscal path, with spending well above tax revenue. The Congressional Budget Office projects that, under current policies, federal debt will soar from 62 percent of annual GDP in 2010 to 87 percent in 2020 and 185 percent in 2035.2 The plan presented here represents the collaboration of its four authors and does not reflect the position of the American Enterprise Institute or any other organization. The individual authors do not fully agree with every provision of the plan, but we join in presenting it as a way to address the fiscal imbalance while promoting economic growth.
Our plan re-establishes a balance between federal spending and revenue that achieves long-term fiscal stability and promotes economic growth. We cannot simply tax our way to a balanced budget without suffering the consequences of a sluggish economy and reduced prosperity. We also cannot simply cut spending without risking the loss of essential services for an aging population, undercutting our infrastructure on which economic growth builds, and reducing our ability to defend the country against its enemies.
Our plan limits the national debt to 60 percent of annual GDP in 2035. Ambitious cuts in federal spending are required to achieve that goal while minimizing tax burdens on the American people and the drag that high marginal tax rates impose on long-run economic growth. We are under no illusion about the difficulty of this task. These policies will require real sacrifices of many families and will be politically unpopular, but some version of our plan is necessary.

The major entitlement programs--Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security--will account for most of the unsustainable growth in long-term federal spending. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) introduces a new subsidy for health insurance in 2014 that will add to the fiscal pressure and contribute to the inflationary pressures that make health care increasingly unaffordable. Spending also must be reduced in other federal programs, but fiscal stability cannot be achieved without reforming our health and retirement programs.
The growth of federal health spending is widely agreed to be our largest fiscal challenge. The technical challenge is to identify policies that can successfully harness Medicare's spending growth with the least impact on access to services and quality of care. The political challenge is to muster the will and bipartisanship necessary to take difficult policy actions in a program that will serve a rapidly growing number of voters.

Joseph Antos is the Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care and Retirement Policy at AEI. Andrew G. Biggs is a resident scholar at AEI. Alex Brill is a research fellow at AEI. Alan D. Viard is a resident scholar at AEI.

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About the Author

 

Joseph
Antos
  • Joseph Antos is the Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care and Retirement Policy at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where his research focuses on the economics of health policy — including the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, the uninsured, and the overall reform of the health care system and its financing. He also studies the impact of health care expenditures on federal budget policy.

    Before joining AEI, Antos was assistant director for health and human resources at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). He has also held senior positions in the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Management and Budget, and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. He recently completed a seven-year term as health adviser to CBO, and two terms as a commissioner of the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission. In 2013, he was also named adjunct associate professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University.

    Antos has a Ph.D. and an M.A. in economics from the University of Rochester and a B.A. in mathematics from Cornell University.



    Follow Joseph Antos on Twitter.

  • Phone: 202-862-5938
    Email: jantos@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Neil McCray
    Phone: 2028625826
    Email: Neil.McCray@aei.org

 

Alan D.
Viard
  • Alan D. Viard is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies federal tax and budget policy.

    Prior to joining AEI, Viard was a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and an assistant professor of economics at Ohio State University. He has also been a visiting scholar at the US Department of the Treasury's Office of Tax Analysis, a senior economist at the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, and a staff economist at the Joint Committee on Taxation of the US Congress. While at AEI, Viard has also taught public finance at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute. Earlier in his career, Viard spent time in Japan as a visiting scholar at Osaka University’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.

    A prolific writer, Viard is a frequent contributor to AEI’s “On the Margin” column in Tax Notes and was nominated for Tax Notes’s 2009 Tax Person of the Year. He has also testified before Congress, and his work has been featured in a wide range of publications, including Room for Debate in The New York Times, TheAtlantic.com, Bloomberg, NPR’s Planet Money, and The Hill. Viard is the coauthor of “Progressive Consumption Taxation: The X Tax Revisited” (2012) and “The Real Tax Burden: Beyond Dollars and Cents” (2011), and the editor of “Tax Policy Lessons from the 2000s” (2009).

    Viard received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University and a B.A. in economics from Yale University. He also completed the first year of the J.D. program at the University of Chicago Law School, where he qualified for law review and was awarded the Joseph Henry Beale prize for legal research and writing.
  • Phone: 202-419-5202
    Email: aviard@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Regan Kuchan
    Phone: 202-862-5903
    Email: regan.kuchan@aei.org

 

Alex
Brill
  • Alex Brill is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies the impact of tax policy on the US economy as well as the fiscal, economic, and political consequences of tax, budget, health care, retirement security, and trade policies. He also works on health care reform, pharmaceutical spending and drug innovation, and unemployment insurance reform. Brill is the author of a pro-growth proposal to reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, and “The Real Tax Burden: More than Dollars and Cents” (2011), coauthored with Alan D. Viard. He has testified numerous times before Congress on tax policy, labor markets and unemployment insurance, Social Security reform, fiscal stimulus, the manufacturing sector, and biologic drug competition.

    Before joining AEI, Brill served as the policy director and chief economist of the House Ways and Means Committee. Previously, he served on the staff of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. He has also served on the staff of the President's Fiscal Commission (Simpson-Bowles) and the Republican Platform Committee (2008).

    Brill has an M.A. in mathematical finance from Boston University and a B.A. in economics from Tufts University.

  • Phone: 202-862-5931
    Email: alex.brill@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Brittany Pineros
    Phone: 202-862-5926
    Email: brittany.pineros@aei.org

 

Andrew G.
Biggs
  • Andrew G. Biggs is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies Social Security reform, state and local government pensions, and public sector pay and benefits.

    Before joining AEI, Biggs was the principal deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA), where he oversaw SSA’s policy research efforts. In 2005, as an associate director of the White House National Economic Council, he worked on Social Security reform. In 2001, he joined the staff of the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security. Biggs has been interviewed on radio and television as an expert on retirement issues and on public vs. private sector compensation. He has published widely in academic publications as well as in daily newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He has also testified before Congress on numerous occasions. In 2013, the Society of Actuaries appointed Biggs co-vice chair of a blue ribbon panel tasked with analyzing the causes of underfunding in public pension plans and how governments can securely fund plans in the future.

    Biggs holds a bachelor’s degree from Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland, master’s degrees from Cambridge University and the University of London, and a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics.

  • Phone: 202-862-5841
    Email: andrew.biggs@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Kelly Funderburk
    Phone: 202-862-5920
    Email: kelly.funderburk@aei.org

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