Toward Common Ground 2020

Bridging the Political Divide with Deficit Reduction Recommendations for Congress

Even before COVID-19, the U.S. was on track to surpass a $1 trillion deficit. Current projections are climbing much higher. Once the immediate health crisis begins to subside, lawmakers will face the challenge of adopting a 2021 federal budget in a time of reduced revenue. U.S. PIRG Education Fund and National Taxpayers Union Foundation have come together to recommend over 50 bipartisan spending reform recommendations for Congress, totaling nearly $800 billion in savings.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund and National Taxpayers Union Foundation

Heading into 2020, the nation already faced serious fiscal challenges. In January, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast that this year’s deficit would exceed $1 trillion, increasing the publicly-held federal debt load to nearly $18 trillion. Over the next ten years, CBO’s baseline projection saw the debt rising to $31 trillion.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the forecasts. Congress came together quickly to enact a series of bipartisan legislative packages to address the health care emergency and the economic fallout. As these immediate challenges are subdued, Congress will again need to set aside political differences and work together to restore the budget to a sustainable path.

It is in this spirit that National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) Education Fund have joined together to propose a list to Congress of more than 50 recommendations to reform the future spending commitments of our nation. If enacted in their entirety, these changes would save taxpayers more than $790 billion over the next decade.

Our organizations may differ about what constitutes a proper regulatory and tax system, but we are united in the belief that the federal government spends in ways that are not fiscally sustainable, and are often detrimental to the interests of the American people. For NTUF, out-of-control entitlement spending, fueled by demographic changes, is a particular concern. For U.S. PIRG, of particular concern is spending that threatens public health, causes environmental damage or wastes taxpayer dollars through corruption or inefficiency.

Within this project, we mutually identify areas of wasteful, cronyistic, and excessive spending that plague our federal budget. We hope that these bipartisan spending cuts and reforms will (1) provide Congress with a number of examples of spending reductions that can at least marginally help rein in federal spending, and (2) show that there are areas of agreement that bridge ideological divides if only we seek them out.

The recommendations in “Toward Common Ground 2020” touch nearly every portion of federal expenditures, including entitlements, defense spending, wasteful subsidies, and a broad range of improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of discretionary programs. They include large items, such as a $195 billion reform of the Department of Defense’s operations and maintenance budget, and relatively small ones, like $4 million in savings from limiting the pensions and perks provided to former presidents. The proposals are specific, detailed, and actionable items that Congress and the administration could pursue right now to reduce spending and ensure stability for America’s long-term budget.