Budget expert Maya MacGuineas concedes that baselines and deficit and debt projections can be boring and arcane.
Still, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is quick to add they are important.
“It’s just not the most exciting issue for most people to talk about, but it affects every other policy thing that we care about, and it’s now the sand in the wheels,” she said. “It’s keeping government from working.”
As Congress and the White House have battled over fiscal policy in the past few years, the Washington, D.C., native has strived to promote and facilitate a bipartisan, big deal that would put the $16.5 trillion debt on a downward path as a share of the economy. Through various projects, she and the CRFB have sought to mobilize business, government and the grass roots to unite around the need for a big fiscal solution.
As a result, the previously obscure organization, a home for former federal budget officials, has been pulled into the spotlight, speaking to what its members and supporters argue is the overriding fiscal issue of the time.
MacGuineas is a fiscal expert who’s worked at The Brookings Institution and on the editorial board of The Washington Post, and she also notes in her official biography on the CRFB website that The Wall Street Journal once dubbed her an “anti-deficit warrior.”
“I don’t care whether you’re the most progressive Democrat or the most conservative Republican,” she said. “There’s no way that we’re going to be able to focus on really working on other issues with this huge debt overhang that’s going to stall the economy and stall the political system until we have leaders that are willing to really pick this one up and fix it.”
Most recently, that has meant challenging the White House estimate that $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years is needed to stabilize the debt, arguing in a report that at least another $2.4 trillion is needed.
“It’s as simple as we want to spend a lot of money and we don’t want to pay for it,” said MacGuineas, who also serves as director of the fiscal policy program at the New America Foundation. “And so we’re willing to pass the bill onto the next generation. The more you study it, the wronger it becomes,” she said.
Although Congress has made a dent in the deficit through passing caps on discretionary spending and raising taxes on affluent Americans, MacGuineas insists the “most important piece that has just been completely left out of the picture is reforming our entitlement systems. It’s critically important to fix them in a way that protects all people who depend on them.”