The Best Tool for Comparing Budget Plans Out There

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Confused about the deficit plans? Lucky you.


The Deficit Comparison Tool from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is the most comprehensive and detailed way to compare the 30 D.C. deficit reduction plans (yes, we're up to 30 now), from the president's deficit commission to Rep. Mike Quigley's budget. It's an essential resource for people following the debate over how to raise taxes, cut spending, and slow the growth of entitlements to bring down our long term debt.

What becomes clear as you scan the options that there's no obvious path to a deficit compromise. Take taxes, for example. The Center for American Progress wants revenue to hit 22.5% of GDP. In 2010, tax revenue came in at 16% of GDP. (Taxes will recover as the economy recovers, but to give you a sense of things: A six-and-a-half percentage point gap is equivalent to about $950 billion in tax increases.) On the other hand, CATO, Heritage Foundation and the House Budget Resolution won't even raise taxes by a cent, which keeps the tax stream at 18% of GDP.

Averaging the liberal and conservative plans together gets you a 20.5% tax revenue target. But Washington always doesn't work by taking the middle of two extremes. There aren't more than three Republicans in Congress who have shown an appetite for any sort of tax increases in the individual income or corporate code. I'd say that higher tax revenue on the back of lower rates and fewer expenditures is the most likely tax deal, but the most likely tax deal isn't necessarily likely.

So feel out the tool at CFRB. But unfortunately, just because information can be organized doesn't mean it's going to lead to something constructive on Capitol Hill.



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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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