MY VIEW: Maya MacGuineas November 14 2012

Today, CRFB President Maya MacGuineas writes in The Hill that with the election now over, politicians can and should turn their attention to what voters are demanding: a resolution to the fiscal cliff and a comprehensive debt deal.

Not every member will return in January for the 113th Congress, but there is a lot at stake with replacing the fiscal cliff with replacing the fiscal cliff in a responsible manner. MacGuineas says that lawmakers will need to quickly get to work.

The election is over, the ballots have been counted and the TV commercials approved by the various candidates are, thankfully, off the air. But there is no time for President Obama and Congress to rest on their laurels. Policymakers need to return to the task of legislating, and nothing is more pressing than putting in place a plan to fix this country’s debt and avoid the year-end “fiscal cliff.”

Lost in the quadrennial tumult of campaign ads and horse-race coverage was any serious discussion of a plan to resolve the upcoming fiscal cliff — that ham-fisted combination of across-the-board spending reductions and tax increases of more than $500 billion next year alone — and, beyond that, the nation’s unsustainable debt. In the immediate future we face the prospect of hurdling into a self-imposed recession, and over the longer term, a fiscal crisis due to our own failure to act. No lawmaker should find either scenario acceptable. Our country is better than that.

With less than two months to go before we reach that cliff, the lame-duck session of Congress will be profoundly consequential. Though going over the cliff would indeed reduce the deficit — something we need to do — it would in fact be too much deficit reduction too quickly, and focus on the wrong parts of the budget. Though I realize that, given our nation’s recent track record of burying our head in the sand on the need to deal with the deficit, it seems a bit silly to worry about too much deficit reduction, this is a tricky balancing act. Ripping the wrong bandage off now and hurtling ourselves into a recession would ultimately make bringing the deficit down much harder.

To those who argue that we should avoid working toward a bipartisan plan and go off the cliff, MacGuineas argues that a comprehensive plan would provide a far greater benefit.

There’s a big difference between implementing deficit reduction all at once and enacting a gradual plan upfront. A smart deficit-reduction plan should be implemented within the next several months, but be phased in gradually in order to protect the recovery and allow people and businesses time to prepare for changes. And, importantly, it would focus on the major problem areas of the budget, including healthcare and retirement programs, as well as comprehensive, pro-growth tax reform that broadens the base, lowers rates and raises revenues in order to help reduce the deficit."

The President met with business leaders today on the fiscal cliff and will meet with congressional leaders on Friday. We hope that lawmakers begin to hammer out the details of a compromise.

The full piece can be found here.

"My Views" are works published by members of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, but they do not necessarily reflect the views of all members of the committee.