By The Hill Staff - 10/24/12 09:00 AM EDT
PRESIDENT, COMMITTEE FOR A RESPONSIBLE FEDERAL BUDGET
In Washington you’re hot when your issue is hot, and with the budget deficit skyrocketing to the top of the national conversation, Maya MacGuineas is on fire.
MacGuineas, 44, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, has spent her entire career on the deficit. These days she’s become a go-to analyst for information about the budget plans of President Obama and Mitt Romney.
But her work hasn’t always been du jour. While at Wall Street firm Paine Webber in the 1990s, MacGuineas couldn’t find a single book explaining the budget deficit in simple terms.
“I decided to write a ‘Deficit for Dummies’ book — and then they came up with a policy to balance the budget,” she said.
But the budget surpluses of the Clinton years quickly turned into deficits under President George W. Bush, and MacGuineas soon found herself at the Brookings Institution and the New America Foundation pushing for fiscal restraint.
Leading the charge to make sure Congress cuts a big, long-term deal to replace automatic spending cuts and tax increases in January, MacGuineas is playing both inside and outside games. She is working with the secretive Senate “Gang of Eight” on a plan, and is also helping coordinate the Campaign to Fix the Debt coalition to promote the deficit as an issue in congressional races.
The Washington native says she is resolutely nonpartisan — though she did provide advice to the 2000 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCainJohn McCainOvernight Defense: Congress overrides Obama 9/11 veto | Pentagon breathes easy after funding deal | More troops heading to Iraq McCain comments won't derail Bergdahl case Senators already eyeing changes to 9/11 bill after veto override MORE (R-Ariz.).
Known as much for her optimism as for her role as an honest judge of fiscal plans, MacGuineas is hopeful Congress can avoid the fiscal cliff and tame the debt.
“My kids really want to get this resolved so we can stop talking about the deficit at the dinner table,” the married mother of two said. “My gosh, my 8-year-old knows all the details of the fiscal cliff.”
— Erik Wasson