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Credible research and impartial information are critical to fostering fiscal responsibility. The Institute to Reduce Spending engages in and promotes rigorous academic research and scholarship on the subject of federal spending and budgeting. We seek to create a national, nonpartisan dialogue regarding spending reform by presenting information in a publicly accessible manner.
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Introducing SpendingTracker.org

The Institute to Reduce Spending is so excited to announce the launch of the first-ever federal spending tracker.
 
Check it out now at SpendingTracker.org.
 
Institute staffers have been developing the methodology and dataset for this project over the past two years. And every day has been worth it to build a robust framework that will now easily capture every single spending vote and display it online, in real time, for everyone to see.
 
As you know, federal budgeting is complicated, dysfunctional, and until now, almost entirely out of reach of everyday Americans.
 
How much is Congress voting to spend? And on what? How much is my Member of Congress responsible for? 
 
Before this tool, answering these types of questions decisively would have required scouring roughly 1,000 Congressional Budget Office reports and voting records — every session. (And that’s not to mention questions of procedure and rules that many in Congress barely even understand.)
 
It’s no exaggeration to say that almost no one would have been able to do so.

That’s why we automated the process.
 

For us, it was a no-brainer. The Institute is dedicated to distilling and presenting robust fiscal research to everyday Americans. We work to create a nonpartisan dialogue on spending reform by presenting information in a publicly accessible manner.
 

New technology and data have affected every part of our lives, from getting a ride to finding a restaurant.
 
There is no reason for the cause of our generation to be left in the Stone Age.
 

Go find your Congressman’s number today!

Can Trump Balance the Budget?

 

While it may seem that balanced budgets are a thing of the past, in a fit of pure optimism on Tuesday, Newt Gingrich predicted at a Heritage Foundation event that, “Trumpism produces a balanced budget largely as the consequence of its policies rather than by focusing on the budget itself.” In other words, the balance can be achieved through creating jobs, cutting bureaucracy, promoting economic growth and lowering spending, Gingrich argued.

 

The former Speaker of the House is hardly naïve on the issue of balanced budgets. He was, after all, a key contributor to balancing the budget during the Clinton Administration, with the US running a surplus for the last two years of his term as Speaker. Lately things are hardly as fiscally restrained. The national debt has grown steadily over the last eight years along with spending, and the first major action the new Congress took was to pass a budget resolution last week that adds $9 trillion to the debt over the next ten years. While allies of the resolution argue that it was just a vehicle to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and these are not the final numbers, fiscal conservatives may find it hard to give any benefit of the doubt — especially as the incoming administration continues to signal they are serious about a major infrastructure package in the near future.

 

Reasons for pessimism aside, there have been some signs that Gingrich is right and that a Trump administration will prioritize getting runaway spending under control. For instance, President-elect Trump has made a target of wasteful programs, and he did recently advise his transition team to develop a plan to pursue spending cuts by up to 10% and staffing cuts to 20%, potentially saving up to $10 trillion over the next decade.

 

A blueprint has also surfaced with President-elect Trump’s specifics on reducing federal bureaucracy. Major cuts would be made to agencies within the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Justice, State and Transportation. These cuts mirror other recommendations put forward by both the Heritage Foundation and the Republican Study Committee (RSC).

 

As encouraging as these reports are, fiscal hawks cannot afford to relax just yet. If spending is hiked in other areas of the budget such as infrastructure or the Pentagon, these proposed cuts will not push us toward a balanced budget, and if spending is not cut further along with potential tax cuts, deficits will continue or even grow. The Congressional Budget Office and others consistently point out that high deficits and debt can damage economic growth, which would put a damper on any potential supply-side balance.

 

An even bigger concern is major spending on the mandatory side, which continues to crowd out the rest of the budget. Breaking ranks with many in his own party, though, President-elect Trump has pledged not to cut these programs. Proposed discretionary cuts can only go so far without serious reforms to the two-thirds of the budget currently on autopilot.

 

Whether Speaker Gingrich was overly optimistic remains to be seen, but as we head into the new administration and the new Congress, we hope that things turn in the right direction and meaningful reforms are achieved. With our future at stake, fiscal conservatives should encourage real solutions, not just more of the same political promises.

Don’t get rid of the debt limit without real reforms

Writing today in Rare, Institute research manager Jake Grant takes on a dangerous notion coming from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew last week. While correctly diagnosing serious problems with the debt limit process, Secretary Lew misses the mark in implying it should be ended without any limits to replace it.
 

Last week, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew basically summed up this narrow view by calling to end “debt limit brinksmanship” and partisan fights he said endangered the nation’s finances because of a “broken, outdated system.”
 
While Lew and others would like to forget that a debt limit fight produced the only budget discipline in generations—the 2011 Budget Control Act—his larger point is mostly correct. The debt limit is a broken system that has not done its job of holding down debt because it fails to target the root of the problem. Unfortunately, though, so does Lew, forgetting that unchecked increases in spending may also initiate the type of fiscal crisis he hopes to avoid.
 
Debt limit fights are not a perfect solution, but neither is spending uninhibitedly. What’s worse, Congress and the public have been actively misled on the dangers – last year, Treasury was caught seeking “to maximize pressure on Congress by limiting communications about contingency planning” – in other words, leading Congress and the public to believe there were far fewer options than there really were.

 
Read the full piece here.

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