Fiscal Discipline Comes in Spirit, Not Just Rules

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget applauded the pay-as-you-go rule as an important first step in establishing fiscal discipline. Highlighting a commitment to pay-as-you-go sets an encouraging tone that the Committee hopes will guide the entire legislative session.

Budget rules are meaningful only if there is a commitment to comply with the spirit as well as the letter of the rule. While rules are a useful tool in creating a presumption in favor of fiscal discipline, they are not a substitute for the tough choices that will be necessary. The Committee urges Congress to go much further by convening a budget summit to deal with the specific policy changes that will be needed to improve the short and long-term fiscal picture.

The Committee has always supported the budget reforms of the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990, and believes that both statutory pay-as-you-go and caps on discretionary spending should be reinstated. These rules did not always work perfectly, and it may be useful to consider changes to improve the technical workings of pay-as-you-go to make it more effective and balanced. But the rules established by the Budget Enforcement Act made a significant contribution to bringing the deficits under control in the 1990s and the Committee urges Congress to move forward with legislation reinstating these statutory budget rules.