Congressional inaction isn't an option
I spend a lot of my time talking about congressional gridlock these days. Underlying my arguments is the judgment that Congress needs the capacity to act. A lot of people, of course, argue the opposite point: Our system is biased towards inaction for a reason, and a Congress that acts is a Congress that's constantly meddling. I think that position makes a lot more sense in principle than it does when you consider the budget crisis America is facing in the coming years. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explains:
Reducing the deficit to 3 percent of GDP by no later than 2019 (and preferably earlier) will require actions substantially larger than the biggest deficit-reduction efforts of the past — the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, the reconciliation acts that followed the “budget summits” between the Administration and congressional leaders in 1987 and 1990, and the reconciliation act of 1993. The largest of these trimmed deficits by about 2 percent of GDP. Over the 2013-2019 period, we will need savings about one-and-a-half to two times as large.
We've literally never had a deficit problem this large before. And it's not the fault of the stimulus or the bailout — both of which were short-term costs that account for about 3 or 4 percent of the long-term deficit — or even any particular policy. It's mainly health-care costs — in the private and public sectors — with an assist from demographic changes. But however you slice it, it's going to require some really tough decisions from a Congress that shows no capacity for making such tough decisions. Inaction isn't an option unless you're comfortable with crisis being the outcome.
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