By: Michael Tanner
Originally Appeared in: National Review Online
How many times have we heard that the only thing standing in the way of a grand bargain to reduce our growing national debt is Republican intransigence on taxes? If Republicans would only agree to dump Grover Norquist, Democrats will agree to cut spending and reform entitlements. Then, we can all join hands and sing Kumbaya as we usher in a new era of compromise and fiscal responsibility.
Except that now that Republicans have agreed to raise taxes, er, revenue, as part of an agreement to avoid the looming fiscal cliff, liberals appear to have decided that there really isn’t a need to cut spending after all.
“Suddenly the clear and present danger to the American economy isn’t that we’ll fail to reduce the deficit enough; it is, instead, that we’ll reduce the deficit too much,” warns Paul Krugman. All this worry about debt and deficits is “an entirely contrived crisis,” writes Robert Kuttner in the Huffington Post. After all, as the New York Times explains, “deficits are actually a good thing when the economy is deeply depressed, so deficit reduction should wait until the economy is stronger.” “So,” sums up Robert Reich, “can we please stop obsessing about future budget deficits? They’re distracting our attention from what we should be obsessing about — jobs and growth.”
Congressional Democrats already appear to have successfully taken Social Security reform off the table. This, despite the fact that Social Security faces $22 trillion in unfunded liabilities. Democrats may be willing to trim Medicare, but both Harry Reid and Dick Durbin are opposed to structural changes, such as raising the eligibility age. Of course, anything resembling Paul Ryan’s premium-support plan is beyond even discussing. Democrats are more inclined to rely on the type of reforms contained in the Affordable Care Act. Yet the administration’s own actuaries project that, even if all of the ACA’s reforms work exactly as hoped, Medicare will remain $42 trillion in the red. And that’s the best-case scenario.
Yet the media still seem obsessed with Republicans and taxes: Will they stick to the Taxpayer Protection Pledge or not? Will tax rates go up or will loopholes be closed? How much new revenue will Republicans agree to?
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