Should a Balanced Budget Be a Top Priority for Congress?

Advocates say excessive deficits stall job growth, but critics argue against cutting expenditures now.


Many of the incoming members of Congress campaigned for reining in federal spending and getting the budget balanced. Critics argue that cutting expenditures now could threaten the economic recovery, while advocates say that excessive deficits stall job growth.
Edited by Robert Schlesinger


Brian Riedl
Grover Hermann fellow in federal budgetary affairs at the Heritage Foundation

Just two years ago, pundits and politicians pounded George W. Bush for presiding over a "staggering" $458 billion budget deficit. Since then, the deficit has soared—to $1.4 trillion in 2009 and to $1.3 trillion this year. Merely maintaining current tax-and-spending policies would push the annual deficit to nearly $2 trillion by 2020, and even that...


Michael Ettlinger
Vice president for economic affairs and a tax policy expert at the Center for American Progress

Balancing the federal budget should not now—or ever—be the top priority of Congress. Should Congress govern in a fiscally responsible way? Absolutely. But we should not seek fiscal responsibility for its own sake. We should seek it as part of the broader public goals of a strong economy and a well-functioning...


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