July 24, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

What’s Needed on Deficit: Less Talk, More Action

You might be familiar with the song because you’re old enough to remember when it hit the charts in the late 1960s or because over the past few years you watched the NBC television show “Las Vegas,” which used it as a theme. Either way, Elvis Presley’s “A Little Less Conversation” was an upbeat plea for less talk and more action.

And that makes the song, which asks for “A little more bite and a little less bark/ A little less fight and a little more spark,” the perfect anthem for the ongoing debate about the federal budget deficit.

Take last week’s talk fests about the deficit. The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the group formed by the president after seven Republican co-sponsors voted against and, therefore, killed the legislation that would have created a Congressional deficit reduction commission, held its first public meeting Tuesday. During the meeting much of what is already known about the budget problem was simply repeated. As far as I can tell, little was said that was new or moved the needle. The following day, an all-star cast of mostly former federal economic and budget policymakers spoke at what was dubbed a “fiscal summit” by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which convened the meeting to begin what it said would be a “national bipartisan dialogue” about the deficit. That will be followed by what is being called a national town meeting on June 26 that will link discussions on the deficit that will be held simultaneously in 20 cities.

It’s not clear that any of this talk is going to accomplish much. As much as I fervently hope the commission will be able to come up with deficit reduction plan that, as required, will be supported by 14 of its 18 members, it’s not at all clear that the environment has changed to the point where it will be possible for that to happen. The summit was more preaching to the deficit- reduction choir than to the unwashed and seemed to have little, if any, actual effect on budget politics. There’s also little indication that the national town hall meeting will be able to move people away from their so-far-fixed-in-cement position that the deficit should be reduced but spending shouldn’t be cut and taxes shouldn’t be increased to do it.

As the song says, “All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me.”

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