Understanding the Debate over the Federal Budget

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 12:43 AM by

CBPP Resources Provide Extremely Helpful Info for Anyone Looking for a Crash Course on Federal Fiscal Policy Choices

Governor Romney’s decision to put Paul Ryan on his ticket has had an effect that fiscal policy wonks like me are happy about – it has made federal budget issues a far more prominent part of the Presidential and Congressional election campaigns and the public discussion of those races. As someone who struggles to get people interested in those issues, I’m very pleased to have more light shone on the alternative plans for balancing the federal budget and the implications of those plans at the state level.

For people seeking a crash course on the federal budget, I’d recommend the material from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), which offers a wide variety of very helpful resources on federal fiscal policy. A couple of primers that they recently updated provide some basics about the federal budget. The first explains what federal tax dollars pay for, and the second background paper describes where our federal tax dollars come from.

Both of those papers provide useful charts – and as someone who loves charts, that brings me to my all-time favorite CBPP blog post: the “Top Ten Federal Tax Charts.” (Like I said, I’m a fiscal policy wonk.)  It provides a quick and easy way to understand federal tax trends, who pays those taxes (and how much), how the U.S. compares with other developed countries, and some of the implications of tax choices (such as changes in income distribution and federal debt). 

Over the coming months we’ll continue to highlight some of CBPP’s resources that help shed light on the debate over federal budget issues, and we’ll be providing our own commentary and analysis on those issues.

Time will tell whether adding Ryan to the ticket was a good move for Romney politically, but I’ll leave it to others to ponder that question. Regardless of how that plays out, I’m happy that there has been a large upswell of interest in or attention to the House-passed Ryan budget plan and budget alternatives. The fiscal choices that are made in Congress late this year or early in 2013 will have a tremendous impact on state budgets and federal safety net programs, and with or without having Ryan on the ticket it’s very important for people to consider and debate those federal budget choices.

Jon Peacock

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