Centers Host Federal Budget Panel: “To the Brink and Back”

Naoru Koizumi
Associate Dean of Research and Grants

Ryan J. Pryke
Senior Grants Administrator

Office of Grant Development
Schar School of Policy and Government
George Mason University

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Joe Minarik of the Committee for Economic Development makes a point at a panel discussion on the federal budget crisis.
Joe Minarik of the Committee for Economic Development makes a point at a panel discussion on the federal budget crisis.

A federal government shutdown, a last-minute fiscal-cliff deals and countless debates on the debt limit ceiling—the dramatic headlines of this political season all come back to one thing: the federal budget.

Last week, George Mason University’s Centers on the Public Service hosted The Federal Budget Crisis: To the Brink and Back, an event held at the National Academy of Public Administration that brought together national thought leaders to discuss the budget process, the effects of dysfunction on public administration and analysis and possible pathways for a feasible budget agreement.

“We’re in a bad state with the federal budget process,” lamented the Centers on the Public Service director, Mason professor Paul Posner, to kick off the discussion. “And the public is losing confidence in our political leaders’ ability to solve our economic and budgetary problems.”

The panel offered students in the Master of Public Administration Program the opportunity to hear experts’ insights on charting a course for both the short-term and long-term resolutions. Bill Hoagland, senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center and former staff director of the Senate Budget Committee, said that “creating a solution may be a naïve goal, but we [the panel] hope to create a roadmap or path the Congress could follow.”

Of the possible pathways submitted, Joe Minarik of the Committee for Economic Development argued that the “deal was as clear as the nose on your face. You need a balanced approach of revenue increases, spending changes and entitlement reform.” Yet he hastened to add that an attempt to restructure our long-term budgetary problem before the Dec. 13 budget resolution deadline would be futile, and he encouraged congressional leaders to focus on getting the government through the holiday season and picking up negotiations again in January.

Despite daunting challenges facing our country in the coming years, there was a ray of hope in the fiscal dysfunction.

“I’m hopeful for a grand bargain,” said Bob Bixby of the Concord Coalition. Even with the ideological polarization, there was a sense among the panelists that they believed leaders in the Congress and the White House could find resolution.

This was the third event hosted by the centers addressing the federal budget crisis and was cosponsored by the National Academy of Public Administration. The discussion is part of a larger effort by the centers to establish a multimedia resource center on the federal budget.