On June 14, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget held its 2011 Annual Conference and Dinner on Capitol Hill. This year’s roundtable conference, entitled “The Debt Ceiling, Fiscal Plans, and Market Jitters: Where Do We Go from Here?” featured a keynote address from chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, and a roundtable with 40 of the nation’s leading fiscal and economic experts. The evening reception and dinner featured keynotes from Office of Management and Budget director Jacob Lew and Fiscal Commission co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Sen. Alan Simpson. The events combined for a day and evening of interesting yet sobering discussion and debate on the nation’s fiscal challenges.
At the roundtable discussion, moderated by CNBC senior economics reporter Steve Liesman, a star-studded cast of budget experts discussed the breadth and scope of the nation’s debt and deficit troubles, the perilous economic situation our country faces if we fail to act on the issues, and the state of play in Washington and prospects for compromise among politicians. Participants included the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, three current Senators and two current Congressmen, the sitting director of the National Economic Council (NEC), former directors of CBO, OMB, and NEC, former Members of Congress, and numerous representatives from both Wall Street and the economic policy community in Washington, D.C. As CRFB President Maya MacGuineas recounted in an interview with PBS's Nightly Business Report, the discussion covered a wide range of topics, but focused mostly on the debt ceiling debate, the various fiscal consolidation plans released in recent months, the necessity for deals both on the debt limit increase and on long-term debt reduction, and the potential for a fiscal and financial crisis. Above all, the resounding theme of the day was political dysfunction.
The conference opened with remarks from chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, who gave his strongest remarks yet about the nation’s budget policy and fiscal outlook, what can be done about it, and how to go about enacting a solution. In perhaps the biggest sound-byte of the day, Bernanke voiced his disagreement with the sentiment that the debt ceiling should be used as a tool for forcing action on the deficit. He said that even a short-term disruption of payments made by the U.S. government would have severe impacts on the U.S. and the global economy. But beyond urging action on raising the debt ceiling, he also urged Congress to take quick action on our debt and enact a fiscal plan. While the task is certainly daunting, he said, it is necessary to avoid fiscal and economic calamity in the future.
Click here to read the full event recap on CRFB.org.