Best Solutions Test
Now that we are in an election year, politicians and others are increasingly putting forth proposals to address the significant challenges facing our nation, which include proposals to address our country’s growing deficits and mounting debt. The true question is not what proposal we like the best or has the best name, but whether the proposal is ever likely to happen, or if it does, whether it will actually solve our fiscal challenge. Americans should ask six standard questions to determine whether any proposal to fix our debt problems passes the Best Solutions Test. A proposal must be able to answer “yes” to all six questions, otherwise it fails, and it is therefore … BS.
1) Does it make economic sense?
A proposal must promote economic growth, and recognize the difference between the short term economic challenges and resulting deficits, vs. the much larger and growing structural deficits that lie ahead.
2) Is it socially equitable?
A proposal should not affect certain segments of society more than others, and should ensure that we have a solid and secure social safety net.
3) Is it culturally acceptable?
A proposal must be acceptable given the United States’ unique culture. For example, many European countries have tax levels that are much higher than ours, but such levels would not be acceptable to most Americans given our society’s preference for a more limited government.
4) Does it pass a basic math test?
The numbers must add up, meaning that a proposal should actually achieve what it claims it will (e.g. balance the budget; reduce debt as a % of GDP, etc.) Sounds obvious, but too often politicians use creative accounting and unreasonable assumptions to make it appear that their plan achieves more than it actually would. A proposal must include reasonable and sustainable assumptions.
5) Is it politically feasible?
For a plan to be realized it must get passed into law, so any proposal being considered must be able to achieve majority support in the U.S. House of Representatives, a 60-vote filibuster proof majority in the U.S. Senate, and the signature of the President.
6) Can it achieve meaningful bipartisan support?
Beyond becoming a law, for a proposal to be sustained over time it must have some bipartisan support. For example, the repeal of the recent health reform legislation, which was passed without any bipartisan support, will be a top priority if Republicans retake the Presidency and Senate. On the other side, the two most popular and long lasting social insurance programs, Social Security and Medicare, were passed with large bipartisan support. However, they certainly are in need of significant bipartisan reforms to be sustained overtime.