Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Fiscal Grand Canyon

With the benefit of hindsight, I think the adoption of the "massive fiscal cliff" metaphor for our fiscal policy challenge was a bad idea.  I think Ben Bernanke introduced it to motivate action -- 10 months in advance -- to improve fiscal policy.  But what was meant to suggest urgency actually led to unnecessary panic.  A clear statement by a newly re-elected Obama in November that unless the Congress sent him a thoughtful bill to sign, the tax code would simply revert would have been a much better course of action.  The Republicans would then have to specifically introduce legislation to achieve their objectives.  The sad story of the last two years is that they have been able to get Obama to acquiesce to their demands without having to actively promote their agenda through legislation.  In this case, Obama really did hold all the cards, and yet almost all of the Bush tax cuts have been made permanent. 

Not to be outdone by Chairman Bernanke, I introduce the phrase "fiscal grand canyon" in an op-ed in the New York Daily News today.  We certainly jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.  The key excerpt:

Unfortunately for Obama, he signed away the opportunity to pursue an ambitious second-term agenda when he signed this legislation.

In this era of partisan disagreement, we can expect congressional Republicans to oppose any new idea the White House may propose on the grounds that it costs more money and the budget is already projected to be in large deficit.

Enjoy!

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