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The Brookings Institution: Congress Should Use Cost-Effectiveness to Guide Spending Cuts

Authors: Jon Baron, and Ron Haskins
December 2, 2011

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This Brookings blog insists that deficit reduction must be accomplished through cost-effective, rather than politically expedient, program funding cuts.

Although the focus in Washington lately has been on the deficit super committee and dashed hopes for "going big," a new drama is playing out now in Congressional spending decisions for 2012. With Congress and the president having agreed to trim 2012 discretionary spending by $7 billion, our leaders have a unique opportunity to focus funding on programs that produce results, and thereby build a leaner, more cost-effective government. Can they seize the moment, or will it be business-as-usual and continued erosion in the people's confidence?

We support program cuts as part of long-term deficit reduction, and realize that the magnitude of reductions needed over the next decade will require sacrifice from many Americans. However, the sacrifice could be minimized—and government performance maximized—if Congress uses evidence of effectiveness to decide where to spend and where to cut. In other words: Do what works!

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