The importance of getting specific on the deficit
Michael Kinsley and Ross Douthat both make the point that simply letting current policies roll forward might reduce the deficit, but it's not easy and it's not necessarily best. I think everyone can agree on that. I'd probably let the Bush tax cuts expire three years from now -- yes, that's a tax hike, but only to Clinton-era rates -- but we need to do something more comprehensive about Medicare's payments for doctors.
At any rate, the point isn't that CBO's report shows deficit reduction is easy. It shows it's possible, and gives us one way to get specific. If you don't want to do it by following current law, then you should get specific about the exact policies you'd like to see followed. These, for instance. But at some point, the conversation has to move from "we should do something about deficits" to "we should do this about deficits." The CBO report, at the least, gave us one picture of what "this" could look like. Here are some other guidelines.
But until we get specific, it's very hard to say whether the people claiming to be deficit hawks are interested in reducing the debt or interested in picking up a politically resonant argument against further stimulus spending (which isn't an important contributor to the debt anyway). Getting specific helps us figure out exactly which conversation we're having.
July 2, 2010; 4:43 PM ET
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