The Facing Up Budget Blog Carnival!

As always, I was delighted to put together Facing Up/Public Agenda's most recent budget blog carnival.  Below, find the republished carnival!  If you want to know the various perspectives on America's fiscal woes, this is the entry to read!  Enjoy. Facing Up to the Nation's Finances is back with a new "Budget Blog Carnival!" If you are unfamiliar, a blog carnival is an online "magazine" (blogo-zine) of sorts that focuses on a specific theme. This issue is all about the U.S. federal budget and the national debt.

As always, the carnival is comprised of a non-partisan collective of blog entries. While specific pieces may have ideological roots, the overall carnival is a testament to the diverse voices present in the ongoing debate that surrounds the budget, deficit and accumulated national debt.

Today, we are releasing an exciting array of entries from The Heritage Foundation, The Committee for a Responsible Budget, Econbrowser blog, ECONLOG blog and the Economist's View blog, to name a few of the participants! Here is your guide to Facing Up's Dec. 2009 Budget Blog Carnival:

First and foremost, Scott Bittle, executive vice president of Public Agenda and co-author of"Where Does the Money Go?", leads the pack with a piece entitled, "The Three Questions for the Public on the Federal Budget." In the piece, Bittle highlights three key questions for the public (and American leaders) to consider: "Can we afford it?" "Can we keep the status quo?" and "Am I willing to give up something I want because the government can’t afford it?"According to Bittle,

"Most of the people who’ve looked at this issue, whether they’re liberal or conservative, in or out of government, use the same word to describe the federal budget: “unsustainable.”

Next, economist Dr. Arnold Kling of the EconLog blog ponders various scenarios for resolving U.S. debt. From technological advances to hyperinflation, Kling provides valuable insight.

Conn Carroll of The Heritage Foundation penned a piece entitled, "The Definition of Economic Insanity." In the entry, Carroll stands firmly against deficit spending as a means to stimulate the U.S. economy. In opposition to recent "jobs summit" proposals Carroll states,

"These “new” ideas will fail for the same reason the past two government stimulus plans failed: governments do not create jobs."

In a separate piece, Carroll presents a series of government actions from the 1930's through modern times that he considers examples of the "...failure of government to spend its way to prosperity..." and makes his case for the government to step "out of the way."

And Dan Perry penned an intriguing article about the urgency of the debt. Perry charges both parties with fiscal irresponsibility, as he finds fault in both President Obama's deficit spending and record-increases in spending during George W. Bush's presidency. While he sees the "Tea Party" movement as impressive, he writes the following:

"After eight years of a Republican administration, the nation saw record spending and deficit levels without so much as a peep about the financial difficulties it might someday cause. Meanwhile, their solution to these economic woes are a series of tax cuts accompanied by no tangible reductions in spending."

Next, James Hamilton of the Econbrowser blog responds to Paul Krugman, one of the leading economists to argue that U.S. budget deficits are not that troubling in the current fiscal environment. Hamilton expresses his worriesabout current and future deficits. Please also read Krugman's writings on this subject here and here.

Also, here's another piece from Hamilton -- an assessment of federal budget commitments and the danger present in continuing on our current budgetary path.

Another exciting partner in the current Facing Up carnival is the bi-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The Committee submitted two pieces -- one about theessentials associated with tax reformand another that explores the true costs of health care reform. Both of these entries provide insight into the current debate over the national debt.

And, Mark Thoma from the Economist's View blog highlights the three ways in which debt can make future generations worse off, while covering some of the "bogus arguments" that are given in the budget debate. Thoma concludes by calling some of the Republican opposition we've seen as "unduly alarmist."

In a more-lighthearted commentary, Bob McCarty writes about the similarities he sees between the movie Friday the Thirteenth and the economic stimulus package.

Finally, in "Musings on America’s Budgetary Challenge," David D. Kent provides a fun-filled look at federal expenditures and ponders the "what ifs" of potential spending scenarios.

That's it for this edition of the blog carnival. Stay tuned for more!

Understanding America’s Fiscal Woes

With the release of the "Voter's Survival Kit: The Smart Guide to What the Politicians Won't Tell You," Public Agenda is once again engaging constituents and providing a much needed non-partisan balance in the political sphere. The kit is comprised of non-partisan issue guides that focus on specific challenges: the economy, immigration, taxes, spending and the national debt, climate change, Iraq and health care.

Surely these are all major topics of concern, but with the recent fiscal meltdown and continued economic strain, I'd like to encourage you to check out "The Economy" issue guide (be sure to read them all, but this guide is an absolute essential if you want a concise overview of the current fiscal mess). While learning about the economy can be a daunting task (let's face it, it's not the most exciting topic in the world), Public Agenda has made understanding the issue at hand a simple and painless process. After all, how can the American electorate make an informed vote on the issues if we're constantly relying on the imbalanced spin we hear in the debates and on the campaign trail?

"The Economy" issue guide gets down to the point, as it provides the basic facts about America's economic debacle, potential directions the nation can take and much more. If you are a citizen, politician, political news junkie, blogger or professional who simply wants a reliable overview, this is a must-read guide.

The Fix We're in Now

In the first section of the guide, you'll be presented with the fact that 12% of Americans live below the poverty line (gasp). And if that doesn't sound scary enough the actual number – 36 million Americans – is chilling (to some degree, this is actually a longitudinal improvement, as you'll read). And then there's savings and health care. As you may already know, Americans are borrowing more and saving less and a chunk of the American public – 16% – is uninsured.

And this is only a small piece of the puzzle. The economy is a multifaceted issue; politicians will need to free themselves from wasteful spending habits, while complicating their understanding of the national and world economies so that fiscal rejuvenation can improve the current mess.

How We Got Here

While understanding the mess is important, getting some background on how we let our country get to this point is essential. Public Agenda's guide provides this important information. While we need politicians to set policies that will improve America's fiscal footing, we also need to consider the fact that private companies, investors, consumers and workers all have a role in the process. The guide discusses the fact that while the U.S. economy actually grew for the first half of this year (yes, I said grew) and the productivity of the American worker continues to increase, prices are rising, we're overstretched on credit and our government is more than $10 trillion in debt. The guide makes clear that America's economy continues to show strength in many areas even as our economy's vulnerabilities become harder to deny.

What's the Plan?

Okay, so, economically speaking, things aren't the best. While driving that point home isn't too difficult in these strained times, talking about solutions is a bit more challenging. Public Agenda provides some choices that are championed as beacons of hope for repairing America's economic system. While I won't delve too deeply into these recommendations, I'll present them here:

  • Keep taxes low and government involvement at a minimum so the free market can work
  • Focus on creating good jobs at home and securing a safety net for all Americans
  • Get the U.S. back on track to compete in the global economy by investing in key areas and growing "21st Century Industry" in America.

Public Agenda does not advocate for any one of these approaches. A non-partisan review of each is undertaken. Be sure to check out all of the relevant information on these potential "fixes."

With economic strain comes the need for an informed electorate. Kudos to Public Agenda for formulating a guide that provides the information and perspective needed to equip voters to address the economy (and other relevant issues) during this election cycle.