Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I usually blog a fair amount about budgets, but haven't said anything much about the Simpson/Bowles plan.  (Plan?  Chair's mark?  Whatever).  That's because I really don't think it matters very much.  It's not going to get the supermajority required by the commission, and it's not going to be the basis for Congressional action.

The best thing I've seen about this recently was what Matt Yglesias said a week ago:
It’s definitely true that in principle a country should always have a specific plan for returning to long-term balance. But does that ever actually happen? The budget deficit isn’t currently a problem, but it almost certainly will be in the future and that’s when congress will act to deal with it...

The big deficit reduction deals of the 80s and 90s didn’t just happen for no reason. They happened because the large structural deficits of the Ronald Reagan administration were creating serious economic problems. Today we have serious economic problems, but none of them are caused by the deficit...It would be wise and just and moral for the 112th Congress to pass a judicious long-term debt reduction program, but it doesn’t seem even remotely realistic. Is there any precedent for a country doing deficit reduction pre-emptively in the way everyone seems to be suggesting we should? 
We don't know what the budget situation is going to look like when it comes time to actually deal with it.  Two questions overwhelm everything else: will the economy grow at something resembling a health pace for the next few years?  And, there are lots of essentially starter cost controls in ACA; will they appear to be working a few years down the road, and if so can they (technically and politically) be ramped up? 

The deficit commission was never likely to produce anything, and it's just as unlikely now.  

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