If you despair, as I do from time to time about the dearth of good ideas in progressive policy, I have some good news. ThirdWay.org is a think-tank worth visiting.
The group was founded about a decade ago to supply political ideas to progressive thinkers and policy-makers. I have often found its white papers and thought leadership instructive on a variety of topics, including health care, defense policy and energy. Recently, it has put forward some ideas on deficit reductions that are typically thought-provoking. The policy memo on what to do about the debt is subtitled “A growth-focused deficit reduction agenda.” It is an outline filled with politically and substantively smart ideas.
It begins with this arresting fact: It took the United States almost 200 years to reach a debt of $1 trillion; in the past 10 months, we’ve doubled it. The effect of our debt on economic growth is also clearly explained. Because more and more government spending is going to entitlement spending instead of public investment, growth in the GDP is expected to decline by one-third, which, of course, will weaken an already struggling economy.
The report’s authors, Jim Kessler and David Kendall, debunk the prevailing positions of the right and left on deficit reduction: the right for wanting simply to starve government; the left for wanting to soak the rich. Their objection isn’t ideological; it’s pragmatic. There aren’t enough rich people to soak, and indiscriminantly cutting government spending will rob the country of needed stimulus in areas such as medical research. The report lists ideas for entitlement and tax reform, while including a plan to make Congress and the executive branch reform their own pensions as a sign of their commitment to controlling spending. It also includes ideas for new spending designed to boost the economy and maintain America’s competitive advantage.
Sorry to go on about this, but if you want a smart policy fix every now and then, check out Third Way.