A New Budget Rule: No Substitution Game
It’s about scalpels and hatchets. How deep the cuts will go, and with what bluntness of force. Never a simple balancing act, especially not now. “Evaluating the necessity and merits of various programs, and searching for real waste and inefficiency in government operations, are more difficult than an appeal to the balanced budget rule, but the latter cannot be substituted for the former.” That’s Gerhard Colm, one of my favorite forgotten economists, who advised F.D.R. and Truman, writing in 1955. The substitution game he described is alive and well. I hope Peter Orszag declines his invitation to play.