But letting the law take effect will also have some real benefits. For one thing, on the other side of the cliff, we’ll be a big step closer to the kind of fundamental reform of the tax code that both Democrats and Republicans say they want. Two provisions that limit the deductions and personal exemptions the wealthy can take — similar to the cap on deductions proposed by Mitt Romney — will come back into effect. Capital-gains rates will rise from 15 % to 20%, and dividends will be taxed at normal rates, reducing the incentives for tricks like the notorious “carried-interest loophole.” And instead of a tax system that produces less revenue as a percentage of GDP than at any time since 1950, we’ll move toward one that is adequate to the needs of a modern, dynamic economy. The fiscal cliff is, all by itself, a budget deal and a step toward tax reform. A flawed and dangerous one, to be sure, but a far better starting point for a real budget agreement than the temporary rules of 2012…

In the world on the other side of the fiscal cliff, Democrats and Republicans will have no choice but to work together on tax cuts that will be fairer to the middle class and encourage economic growth. And then, over several years, we have an obligation to look closely at Medicare, in particular, and figure out how to slow the growth of health care costs in that program. That work can only begin on the other side of the fiscal cliff.