We dodged a fiscal cliff in January, but next month we face another wave of manufactured crises: senseless “sequestration” spending cuts and another budget showdown that could lead to a government shutdown. These seemingly endless series of fiscal crises in Washington are ostensibly rooted in a political debate over how to shrink the federal deficit.
But they are also grounded in a failure of the American people to decide what kind of government it wants, argues New York Times D.C. Bureau Chief David Leonhardt in his new e-book, Here’s the Deal. Do Americans want a government that tells its citizens to fend for themselves in exchange for low taxes, or one that invests in its people and their economic competitiveness? We are fundamentally undecided, Leonhardt argues, and our deficits are the consequences of a confused electorate. An electorate that imagines deficits are caused by waste, fraud, abuse, and “out-of-control spending,” when in fact they are caused by rising health costs, military spending, and historically low tax rates.
Leonhardt, a 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner, finds reason to be optimistic about our prospects for overcoming this fundamental confusion, especially if we commit to policies that make economic growth no less central a goal than deficit reduction. And he offers a way forward that can help bridge a yawning partisan divide. Please join the Center for American Progress for a timely and important conversation on the most important debate facing Washington policymakers today.