Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What if Congress Just Adjorned for the Next Two Years?

You probably saw this, but I thought it was pretty interesting.

The papers are full of earnest discussions about how to deal with the rapidly rising federal budget deficits.

Pundits from both the right and the left are weighing in, and President Obama is scheduled to give a major talk this afternoon about reforming Medicare.

But, as Dave Leonhardt of the New York Times and Annie Lowrey of the Washington Post have written, if Congress were to simply go home and let the current tax policies remain in place, much of the deficit could be eliminated in the next few years.

Here's an excerpt from the Leonhardt column this AM:

If Mr. Obama wins re-election, he could simply refuse to sign any budget-busting tax cut for the rich — who, after all, have received much larger pretax raises than any other income group in recent years and have also had their tax rates fall more. Republicans, for their part, could again refuse to pass any partial extension.

And just like that, on Jan. 1, 2013, the Clinton-era tax rates would return.

This change, by itself, would solve about 75 percent of the deficit problem over the next five years. The rest could come from spending cuts, both for social programs and the military.

And Lowrey writes this in the on-line magazine Slate:

But the truth is we don't need any of these plans. Every one of them is entirely unnecessary for balancing the budget and eventually reducing the debt. They may even be counterproductive. Thus, Slate proposes the Do-Nothing Plan for Deficit Reduction, a meek, cowardly effort to wrest the country back into the black. The overarching principle of the Do-Nothing Plan is this: Leave everything as is. Current law stands, and spending and revenue levels continue according to the Congressional Budget Office's baseline projections. Everyone walks away. Paul Ryan goes fishing. Sen. Harry Reid kicks back with a ginger ale. The rest of Congress gets back to bickering about mammograms. Miraculously, the budget just balances itself, in about a decade.

So there you have it: Let's let Congress just go home for the next couple of years. Oh, they'll continue to be paid - it's part of the budget, after all - but applying the Hippocratic oath of medicine to governing ("First, do no harm") might be the best solution.