A visual introduction to the issues involved in the US federal budget and deficit.
Federal Budget 101 (PDF)
This guide is intended to provide an introduction to the fiscal challenges facing the country. It is designed to accompany an Options Workbook (below) that presents a series of options for reducing the federal budget deficit. In order to ensure that the information in this guide is as unbiased as possible, AmericaSpeaks has worked with a diverse National Advisory Committee to solicit comments and feedback.
Federal Budget Options Workbook (PDF)
This workbook is designed to provide a wide array of revenue and spending options for reducing the federal budget deficit. These options represent the types of decisions facing policy makers and their implications for the American people, although they surely do not encompass all of the options that policymakers could consider. Participants in the national discussion will have the opportunity to add additional options as part of the process.
Plans for debt reduction:
With conflicting ideological arguments and new proposals for debt reduction surfacing regularly, it’s hard to know where to begin to really understand these issues. Several individuals and committees have released proposals with ideas for achieving long-term deficit reduction.
Bipartisan Commission for Fiscal Responsibility and Reform’s “Moment of Truth” Plan
President Obama formed a Fiscal Commission to produce a series of recommendations for debt reduction. If the plan receives approval from 14 or more Commission members, these recommendations will be presented to Congress. In this report, Commission members challenge our political system and the American people to confront the difficult trade-offs required to address our nation’s long-term deficits. Debt-reduction suggestions include cuts to discretionary spending, tax reforms including broadening bases and cutting rates, measures to curb rising health care costs, and reforms to Social Security.
Bipartisan Policy Center’s debt reduction plan
A bipartisan task force chaired by former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici and former White House Budget Director Alice Rivlin released this plan on November 17, 2010. Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin both contributed to creating introductory materials for Our Budget, Our Economy, and Rivlin was present at the meeting in Philadelphia. The task force also includes three members of the Our Budget, Our Economy National Advisory Committee and one budget expert from the Philadelphia site.
Our Fiscal Security’s “Investing in America’s Economy”
Demos and the Century Foundation teamed up to create a budget blueprint that suggests debt-reduction measures to generate new jobs, invest in key areas, modernize and restore revenue base, and increase health care cost efficiency.
Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform’s “Back in the Black”
This commission recommends reforms to the government’s budgeting process that will stabilize the debt at 60% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and lead to more transparent, responsible budgeting in the future. Currently, the short-term thinking in the federal budgeting process leads to long-term fiscal problems. To make the budgeting process more far-sighted, disciplined, and transparent, members of the Peterson-Pew Commission suggest a Sustainable Debt Act and increased levels of oversight. For example, under the Commission’s recommended policy changes, the President would report to Congress at the end of each year with an update about the budget’s effects and progress towards fiscal goals.
Other reports on the budget and economy
The following reports were released before the fall of 2010, when long-term debt and deficits were making fewer headlines.
Changing Expectations: Americans deliberate our nation’s finances and future
An initiative of the Facing Up to Our Nation’s Finances Project. Project partners: The Brookings Institution, The Concord Coalition, The Heritage Foundation, Public Agenda and Viewpoint Learning. Project Sponsors: The Ford Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Submitted by Viewpoint Learning, Inc.
The Right Target: Stabilize the Federal Debt
Long-Term Budget Outlook Is Bleak; Requires Major Changes to Programs, Revenues, and Health Care. By Kathy Ruffing, Kris Cox and James R. Horney, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Déjà Vu All Over Again: On the Dismal Prospects for the Federal Budget
New estimates of the federal budget outlook over 10-year and long-term horizons under three sets of assumptions: the Congressional Budget Office baseline, an extended policy scenario, and the Administration budget. By Alan Auerbach, Director of the Burch Center for Tax Policy and Public Finance at the University of California, Berkeley and William G. Gale, Senior Fellow, Economic Studies.
A Path to Balance, A Strategy for Realigning the Federal Budget
The path proposed in this paper is a gradual one with an ultimate goal of a fully balanced budget in 2020, an intermediate target for 2014, and benchmarks along the way. By Michael Ettlinger, Michael Linden, and Lauren D. Bazel, Center for American Progress.
Choosing the Nation’s Fiscal Future
Choosing the Nation’s Fiscal Future is the culmination of two years of effort by the National Research Council and National Academy of Public Administration Committee on the Fiscal Future of the United States. Comprised of experts who represent a diversity of disciplines, a wealth of experience, and a wide range of political and policy views, the Committee members volunteered their time to produce an extraordinary body of work. The report shows a variety of paths toward a sustainable fiscal future for America.
Fiscal Stewardship Project: Americans Confront the Fiscal Crisis
The Final Report from Concord Coalition Fiscal Advisory Councils, which have been established across the country.
Red Ink Rising: A Call to Action to Stem the Mounting Federal Debt
Report from The Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform.