header graphic

Taming the National Debt

Faced with federal spending at around 25 percent of GDP and national debt of close to $14.3 trillion, the 112th Congress has been preoccupied with making spending cuts and addressing the national debt.  One important contribution to this debate came in December 2010 when the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Debt Commission) issued its final recommendations in a report, "The Moment of Truth."  However, in a December 3 vote the Commission failed to endorse the report.  Tea Party activists and many of the 87 Republican House members elected in Nov. 2010 have been at the forefront of efforts to cut government spending and reduce the national debt.  In March 2011, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf observed that "there is more focus in Washington on federal budget problems today than there has been since the late 1990s, and that focus has led to a range of proposals for tackling the problems." 

A major dividing line is whether debt reduction can be achieved solely by cutting spending or whether it will be necessary to increase revenue, i.e. raise taxes.  (Elemendorf, for example, stated that "fiscal policy cannot be put on a sustainable path just by eliminating waste and inefficiency; the policy changes that are needed will significantly affect popular programs or people’s tax payments or both.")  Both sides employ moral arguments.  Conservatives emphasize the immorality of leaving the next generation with a mountain of debt, while progressives stress the need to help the poor and underprivileged in our society.

FY 2012 Budget | Finishing FY 2011 | The Debt Limit Debate | The Super Committee Fails

Gang of Six
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)

National Commission on Fiscal
Resonsibility and Reform
(Dec. 1, 2010)

President Obama
(released Feb. 14, 2011)
House Budget Committee
(released April 5, 2011)

"The problem is real. The solution will be painful. There is no easy way out. Everything must be on the table. And Washington must lead."
"...a responsible approach that puts the nation on a path to live within our means so we can invest in our future." "It cuts $6.2 trillion in spending from the president's budget over the next 10 years, reduces the debt as a percentage of the economy, and puts the nation on a path to actually pay off our national debt."


April 13, 2011 speech on fiscal responsibility.

Republican Study Committee
(released April 7, 2011)
Sen. Rand Paul
(released March 2011)

"...gets us from trillion-dollar deficits to balance in just nine years..." "This budget emphasizes the need to return sovereignty back to the states, empowering individuals, promoting liberty, fixing a broken safety net, and finally, leaving the next generation with a better America." 

House Democratic alternative
(released April 13, 2011)
Congressional Progressive Caucus
(released April 14, 2011)
Congressional Black Caucus
(released April 14, 2011)

"...a path forward to address our deficit and also make strategic national investments necessary to ensure that our country out-educates, out-innovates, and out-builds the rest of the world.” "...eliminates the deficit and stabilizes the debt, puts Americans back to work, and restores our economic competiveness." "...reduces the deficit over the next decade, and increases economic opportunities and job creation while ensuring sustained investments in education, job training, transportation and infrastructure, and advanced reseach and development."