Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

A Mutual Non-Aggression Pact for the Campaigns?

Aug 27, 2012 | Budgets & Projections

A recent editorial from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch argues for what they call a "mutual non-aggression pact on spending and deficits." In their view, this pact would be necessary during the 2012 presidential campaign so as to set the stage for compromise in the lame duck session or in 2013. They lay out their argument very succintly, saying:

Without grown-up attention by the lame-duck Congress, taxes for nearly everyone will go up next year. Spending on defense and non-defense domestic programs each will be cut by $600 billion over 10 years. The nation could default on its debt.

The good news, the Congressional Budget Office reported last week, is that all of this would cut next year's projected deficit nearly in half, from $1.13 trillion to $641 billion. The bad news is that it would not only halt recovery, but cut the GDP by 3 to 4 percent and push the nation back into recession.

Here's a goofy idea that we admit has near-zero chance of finding an audience. But what if adults took over? Let the parties have their chest-beating moments at their conventions, and then let the candidates declare a mutual non-aggression pact.

In the national interest, let them jointly advocate reaching compromise on a deficit reduction plan. The starting point would be the plan outlined in late 2010 by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the so-called Simpson-Bowles commission.

Of course, we agree both that candidates should be willing to embrace bipartisan compromise, using the Simpson-Bowles plan as a starting point. Our "12 Principles for the 2012 Presidential Campaign" states that the campaigns should remain open to compromise given our challenges and the Campaign to Fix the Debt declares that Simpson-Bowles should be the model for such a compromise.

It would certainly be productive if the campaigns took a more conciliatory tone, perhaps leading to a similar shift in the congressional campaigns. Of course, a solution--or at least the creation of a process that leads to a solution--will need to happen before the new presidential and congressional terms start. For the time being, it's up to the current crop to find the way.