How Congress Can Fix Deficit—by Doing Nothing

The expiring Bush tax cuts provide a way: David Leonhardt
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2011 3:19 PM CDT
Speaker John Boehner speaks on Capitol Hill on April 8.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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(Newser) – This deficit-cutting stuff doesn't always have to be complicated. David Leonhardt lays out a plausible way for lawmakers to make a big dent without lifting a finger. It's all about the Bush tax cuts, which are due to expire at the end of 2012. "They have created a way for inertia to be fiscally responsible," he writes in the New York Times. As it stands now, Republicans would love to extend all the cuts and Democrats want to extend only those for people who make less than $250,000 a year. Neither of those scenarios would help the deficit, but if Obama wins re-election and the GOP controls one or both houses of Congress, "things could get interesting."

Both sides would have political cover to let all the cuts expire. Obama "could simply refuse to sign any budget-busting tax cut for the rich—who, after all, have received much larger pretax raises than any other income group in recent years and have also had their tax rates fall more. Republicans, for their part, could again refuse to pass any partial extension. And just like that, on Jan. 1, 2013, the Clinton-era tax rates would return. This change, by itself, would solve about 75% of the deficit problem over the next five years. The rest could come from spending cuts, both for social programs and the military."

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