Here's a novel idea. How about a high-level, bipartisan commission on the budget deficit? We hear you saying, "Oh, please--not another commission." But before you dismiss the idea out of hand, let us run through the persuasive case being made on its behalf.
It is noteworthy that the major promoters of the bipartisan budget commission idea come from the business community. They include, for example, business consultant Horace Busby, a former Lyndon Johnson aide said to have originated the idea; tax lobbyist Charls E. Walker, the moving force behind many of the business tax breaks included in the Reagan administration's tax cut program, and Alan Greenspan, who chaired the recent Social Security commission.
These men are in close touch with the movers and shakers in the corporate world and financial markets. The mere fact that they think the coming budget deficits are dangerous for the economy makes it a good bet that they will be. And it's not hard to understand where they get that idea. The rosiest of economic forecasts still show budget deficits in the range of $200 billion a year and upward-- an unprecedented peacetime claim on GNP.
And it won't be easy to narrow the budget gap. The administration likes to suggest that all would be well if its proposals for further cuts in the domestic budget were put into law. But the fact is that most of the cuts are already taken account of in the deficit projections. Even if all the remaining proposals for cuts were accepted--which, given the harshness of some of them, might not be to the administration's political advantage--the total savings would hardly make a dent in projected deficits.
That means that most of the budget gap must be closed by the politically difficult methods of raising taxes and restraining increases in the military budget. Movement in either of these directions runs counter to strong pressures. Every item in the defense budget is, of course, of keen interest to the many individual communities that benefit from its production. And the tax code is such a leaky bucket precisely because strong lobbies have found advantage in poking holes in it and will fight very hard to see that it stays that way.
Clearly you can see that getting national agreement on the needed restraints and sacrifices is going to require strong leadership--leadership that, while representative of the varying interests of different regions and population groups, is nonetheless able to look beyond those immediate concerns to see where they fit into the broader picture of the national interest. So when you get right down to it the creation of a citizens' group to achieve all this seems, indisputably, a good idea. There's even better news: we already have such a group in place. It is called the United States Congress. How about doing what you were elected for, gang?