Back To The Future

President Obama released his 2012 budget proposal yesterday. House Republicans continue to sort through spending cut proposals for this year’s budget before they tackle the fiscal plan for next year. At about 15% of GDP, Federal revenues are the lowest in more than 50 years, prompting calls for higher taxes on the rich or draconian spending cuts. Over the next few weeks and months, the “budget battle” will drag on. You don’t need to wait for the blow by blow description. It has already been written – over 30 years ago.

Change some of the names and the dollar amounts in this 1978 Time article and you will have a fairly accurate description of the fiscal fight. In fact, you won’t need to change some of the names. Alice Rivlin, recently a member of the bipartisan Debt Commission, was then Director of the Congressional Budget Office. In 1978, she said “If you’re really concerned about the growth in Government, then you have to go after the uncontrollables.” That was the word then for entitlement programs and they have proved to be exactly that – uncontrollable. More than 30 years later, have they become any less uncontrollable?

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