Harvard Political Review Report Dissects Federal Budget Issues

The Harvard Political Review, a journal supported by the Institute of Politics, published its “Annual Report of the United States of America” for the 2013 fiscal year on Thursday, offering a detailed review and analysis of U.S. fiscal policy and its predicted impact on the nation.

The report, subtitled “What Every Citizen Should Know About the REAL State of the Nation,” was produced by 10 students and published in partnership with the non-profit American Education Foundation.

It features an overview of the country’s current fiscal position, as well as a detailed review of federal spending in areas such as social insurance, defense, education, and agriculture.

According to the 86-page report, without reform, Social Security beneficiaries will face a 23 percent benefit cut in 2033. The report also found that the growth of the cost for Medicare has been slowing and that many tax expenditures disproportionately benefit high-income taxpayers.

“A real challenge remains overcoming today's bitter partisanship and governmental gridlock to not only ensure progress, but also show millennials and all our citizens that Washington, D.C.—and our democratic process—can still work and make a difference,” C. M. Trey Grayson ’94, director of the IOP, wrote in an email.

The report was founded in 1995 by AEF’s Executive Director Meredith E. Bagby ’95 when she was an undergraduate at the College working for the IOP.

“Back in those days, producing the report was difficult because there was no internet and we couldn’t look up the numbers,” Bagby said. “But even when information is readily available today, it’s still produced in a way that is not very digestible for a regular citizen."

According to Daniel E. Backman ’15, the report’s student executive editor and president of the Harvard Political Review, the report seeks to make information on the federal budget—often complex and scattered—accessible to the average citizen.

“The major theme of the report is that our government is fairly dysfunctional in terms of budget policy,” Backman said. “There is a huge disconnect between what’s useful and what’s getting done, and people not aware of what’s going on.”

Bagby, who witnessed the growth of the report since 1995, echoes this sentiment.

“Even though it’s been 20 years [since the first report], the fundamental ways in which we spend money in this country [have] not changed,” Bagby said. “The most troubling trend is that there’s no trend.”

In a call for action, Backman wrote in the report’s introduction, “Ask yourself, after reading this report, whether that budget truly represents your values. If not, do something about it.”

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