Monday, May 16, 2011

Doing Nothing

Oh no, not more John Boehner! But while on Face The Nation (transcript here) he issued threats about Medicare and Medicaid and lied about Social Security, the Cryer of the House remarked, seemingly unremarkably, remarked

Remember, the greatest threat to our country and to our economy is doing nothing.

That would not be the greatest threat to our economy- or at least not to the deficit, which was Boehner's topic and his party's obsession.

In April, Annie Lowery explained what she characterized as the Slate "Do-Nothing Plan for Deficit Reduction":

So how does doing nothing actually return the budget to health? The answer is that doing nothing allows all kinds of fiscal changes that politicians generally abhor to take effect automatically. First, doing nothing means the Bush tax cuts would expire, as scheduled, at the end of next year. That would cause a moderately progressive tax hike, and one that hits most families, including the middle class. The top marginal rate would rise from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, and some tax benefits for investment income would disappear. Additionally, a patch to keep the alternative minimum tax from hitting 20 million or so families would end. Second, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Obama's health care law, would proceed without getting repealed or defunded. The CBO believes that the plan would bend health care's cost curve downward, wrestling the rate of health care inflation back toward the general rate of inflation. Third, doing nothing would mean that Medicare starts paying doctors low, low rates. Congress would not pass anymore of the regular "doc fixes" that keep reimbursements high. Nothing else happens. Almost magically, everything evens out.

Lowery laments the plan "won't get us facetime on Meet the Press, or a mash note from pundits. It requires some very unpopular measures—such as serious middle-class tax hikes and sticking with Obamacare." She might have added that it is what President Obama and the mainstream media are clamoring for: shared sacrifice, as both the upper class and the middle class have to give something up. It's not the perfect plan but it's better than we're likely to get, with the middle class expected to give one for the team yet again. But it does reveal how "doing nothing" is not irresponsible, disastrous, or unserious, just a reasonable alternative that will has been, and will continue to be, ignored.

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