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Commission good start, but needs better target
Commission good start, but needs better target
Donald Marron
Visiting professor, Georgetown University; former acting director, Congressional Budget Office

What the president got right: A fiscal commission. Congress appears incapable of dealing honestly with our budget problems through its usual procedures. If it can get bipartisan buy-in. the president's commission might do better. Too bad we don't know what policies he himself would endorse.

The president [also] proposes to repeal several unnecessary tax preferences for oil, gas, and coal companies. Not that much money, but a step in the right direction.

What the president got wrong: A fiscal target. The fiscal commission is tasked with stabilizing the debt burden once the economy recovers. That's a positive step, but the president should have gone further and announced a specific target for reducing the debt burden by the end of the decade.

Medicare doctors. The amount that doctors are paid in Medicare is scheduled to be cut sharply, below what anyone believes is reasonable. This should be fixed, but the president uses an accounting gimmick to try to hide the $371 billion cost.

Climate policy. Last year, the president proposed to raise $500 billion through a cap-and-trade system that would limit carbon emissions. This year his climate policy raises nothing. The president still backs cap-and-trade, but he has caved into congressional pressure to give away or spend all that potential revenue rather than use it to reduce the deficit.

NEXT: Pay-go is right way to go, but needs to go farther
Last updated February 04 2010: 10:44 AM ET
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