FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY goes in and out of style in Washington. Right now, it seems an especially unfashionable cause, what with a huge tax cut about to blow up the federal debt to the tune of more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years, and more big spending ideas undoubtedly to feature in President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday.
But Washington has always been fortunate to have a few policy stalwarts who stay true to conviction no matter the fashion, often working out of the limelight but to the intense admiration of those who know their work. One such exemplar was Ed Lorenzen. Mr. Lorenzen never lost sight of the need for government to balance its expenditures and revenues, and he patiently insisted on it through countless budget cycles on Capitol Hill, policy commission reports and think tank briefings. Quietly and intelligently, Mr. Lorenzen provided objective, reliable fiscal information, even — or especially — when facts and figures were the last thing wishful thinkers in government wanted to face. As senior adviser for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonprofit organization, for the past 7½ years, the man who playfully styled himself @CaptainPAYGO on Twitter was indeed the go-to guy for anyone in need of a budgetary reality check — this editorial board included.
Mr. Lorenzen, in short, was the sort of person Washington always needs but too rarely appreciates. And, to our great sorrow, Washington lost him this past weekend. A house fire took his life and that of his 4-year-old son, Michael. Mr. Lorenzen was trying to rescue the boy, but the flames overtook them both, according to initial reports from authorities in Rhode Island, where the tragedy occurred. “Proud dad of three wonderful children” was the other descriptor he chose on Twitter. Obviously, it was the one that meant the most to him. (Mr. Lorenzen’s two other children escaped the blaze.)
Before his current position, Mr. Lorenzen served on the staff of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, also known as the Bowles-Simpson commission, and as a Democratic staff member in the House of Representatives. In the latter role he helped draft the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010, a modest but genuine legislative brake on Congress’s most spendthrift tendencies — and the inspiration for his Twitter handle. His former boss, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), hailed Mr. Lorenzen on Monday as “a devoted servant to his country.” He deserved that accolade, abundantly, even if many in his country never knew him.