Funding America’s Highways: An Insane Definition of ‘Fiscal Responsibility’

Josh Barro comments on lawmakers’ desire to find a politically expedient solution to replenishing the Federal Highway Trust Fund rather than one that is financially viable.

“And that’s something everybody in Congress knows: The hunt for ‘pay-fors’ — deficit-cutting measures to offset things like replenishing the Highway Trust Fund — is not so much about keeping the economy strong. It’s more about being able to announce that the Congressional Budget Office said your plan wouldn’t raise the deficit over the next 10 years. That works even if, as with the latest Republican proposal, you take all the added corporate tax revenue over the 10-year window to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent for just five additional months. Yes, even if we run with this gimmick, Congress will be back in January, trying to find a way to claw the fund out of insolvency again.”

“If you define ‘fiscal responsibility’ solely in terms of whether the federal budget deficit grows or shrinks over a 10-year window, you can reach the conclusion that the foregoing plan serves the goal of ‘fiscal responsibility.’ Which only goes to show that politicians in both parties have settled on an insane definition of ‘fiscal responsibility.’”

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