Congressional Republicans and Democrats both released budget proposals this week, laying out their parties' priorities for the next decade in government spending. House Republicans, led by Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., released a plan that would lower tax rates while eliminating loopholes, preserve defense spending, and refashion Medicare into a "premium support" (or "voucher" say critics) system, while cutting government spending by $4.6 trillion. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats, led by Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., offered a plan that would find some $1 trillion in cuts from various federal agencies including defense spending, to health care providers, and to some domestic programs, matched by nearly $1 trillion in new tax revenues.
The approaches are obviously very different—particularly with Democrats' call for new taxes, long a sticking point in Washington fiscal negotiations. Republicans also point to the fact that Ryan's plan balances the budget in 10 years while the Democrats' does not. Some economists doubt the math at hand in the Republican plan, and budget proposals are notoriously vague. Yet, with the most recent iteration of the Ryan plan, Republicans have continued their emphasis on balancing the budget. Democrats, meanwhile, say Republican proposals put deficit reduction on the backs of the poor and the elderly, and other challenges—lowering the unemployment rate, investing in education and infrastructure, protecting entitlement programs—should take a front seat to balancing the budget. Furthermore, liberal economists say a balanced budget isn't really necessary to stabilize the nation's deficit as long as the debt-to-GDP is kept to a historically normal average.
Should balancing the federal budget be a top policy priority? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Matthew Mitchell Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University
Stan Veuger Research Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute
Roger Williams Republican Representative From Texas
Scott Lilly Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress
Ryan Schoenike Executive Director of the Can Kicks Back
Isabel Sawhill Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution