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The importance of getting specific on the deficit

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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.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 2, 2010; 4:43 PM ET
Categories:  Budget  
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Next: Reconciliation

Comments

"... 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"

I think they're aware of the troubles in life with a major debt hanging over their heads -- how that reduces future options, limits choices and curtails freedoms owing others -- and they don't want to saddle their young children, grandchildren and great-grands years out into the future.

Do you get that, or is it not politically savvy enough for you?

(Btw, don't you have to apply for that $8,000 first-time homebuyer's credit? If you didn't need it and intend to bank, and not spend it stimulating the economy, why'dja apply? Why not take it when it comes, and donate it to your local low-income job center so they can be $8,000 better off toward helping the Little People...

Wait a minute! Are you really in this to help the Little People, or are you just crafting yourself as some future policymaking politian with a nice bank account to boot? At least let us know where your arguments are coming from, and what would happen if you don't bother applying or cashing that check?)

Posted by: Mary42 | July 2, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Put your money where your mouth is, so to speak?

Posted by: Mary42 | July 2, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Actually just posted a similar comment on Reihan's blog in ref to his Golden Goose post, but it seems to apply here too:

This is exactly why it is so ridiculous to hear John McCain and other septuagenarians rail against "generational theft." Nothing against septuagenarians, but c'mon, it's already happened people. It happened with the Bush Tax cuts, Medicare Part D...and really for decades before that.

Fine, fine, we'll deal with it, but as part of the "goose generation" laying golden eggs for all current pensioners, I say this: Please save your tears and stop using "generational theft" as a talking point to extend tax cuts/help block unemployment benefits/prevent any action to actually improve the economy.

Posted by: AttentionDeficit | July 2, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"Wait a minute! Are you really in this to help the Little People, or are you just crafting yourself as some future policymaking politian with a nice bank account to boot? At least let us know where your arguments are coming from, and what would happen if you don't bother applying or cashing that check?"

I don't blame Ezra for taking advantage of the credit. I'm guessing Ezra fully agrees it would be better to help those in need with his $8k, but it's really hard to turn down $8k (especially since home prices were probably inflated a few percent due to the credit's existence). Hopefully it creates an even greater appreciation in him of how strong economic self interest can be!

Posted by: justin84 | July 3, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Very well put, Ezra!

Posted by: bmoodie | July 5, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

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