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November 28, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff: Mountain Or Molehill?

On the so-called "fiscal cliff", it seems like the last time we were being stampeded to do something now or there will be DOOM!!11! was the 2009 stimulus, and before that it was TARP. There's no way to prove the counterfactual, but it sure seems like we'd have been better off today without either of those ... the former in its entirety and the latter at the very least in the open-ended form it took.

Maybe I'm just in the "let it burn" mindset, but if it takes sequestration to get a spending cut, bring it on. And as far as letting the "Bush tax cuts" expire goes, maybe it takes that to move beyond "blame Bush". Plus, everyone knows that you can't just raise tax rates on the rich and generate enough tax revenue to close the gap to spending (skip to about 2:00 below if you're short on time).

As a matter of fact, we simply can't tax enough for D.C.'s spending appetite, so arguing about the details of who pays what is pointless. We've never collected more than 20% of GDP in tax revenues for any sustained period of time, and nothing indicates that we can do it now. Obamasized government's opening bet is about 25% of GDP. Good luck with that.

But, alas, this probably isn't going to happen. Our erstwhile guardians of the public fisc would rather explain why they did something ... even if it was the wrong thing ... than why they did nothing. So there will be a compromise, and it will kick the can down the road making the ultimate resolution of the problem even more painful.

There's no easy way out of the hole we've dug ourselves. The sooner we admit that, the better.

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posted by Andy at 08:25 AM

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