Economic Program | Report

It Can Be Done: Five Lessons from the 1990 Budget Summit Agreement

by David Brown and Jim Kessler

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With the fiscal cliff approaching, policymakers searching for a feasible budget compromise can learn from the success of the 1990 Budget Summit Agreement. This memo highlights five lessons from the 1990 deal, which overcame circumstances much like today’s.

In September 1990, the president faced a hostile Congress, an under-performing economy, and an imminent fiscal cliff. The upwardly marching debt demanded that lawmakers overcome their partisan differences to make a deal—one that reduced deficits and averted automatic cuts.

After 12 days of intense negotiations, President George H.W. Bush and Congressional leaders of both parties announced a budget agreement which cut spending, raised taxes, and reduced deficits by $500 billion over five years. Five weeks later, that compromise became law, paving the way for the fiscal stability of that decade. Please also see the original text of the 1990 Budget Summit Agreement.

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