Want to eliminate the deficit? Let the Bush tax cuts expire

Of course, you can muddle wisely or muddle stupidly. I worry we’ll choose the latter. Evidence is already mounting: The sequester is a stupid way to cut spending. Letting the Bush tax cuts expire all at once is a stupid way to raise taxes. And repeatedly forcing the country to the brink of default is a stupid way to manage our budget.

Worse, too much deficit reduction too fast will hurt economic growth. You can see that happening in Europe, where an excess of austerity has tipped a number of nations into fiscal holes they can’t seem to climb out of. In a city as obsessed with deficits as Washington, yet unwilling to strike smart deals that pair long-term deficit reduction with short-term support for the economy, a bad turn in the economy or a set of policy misjudgments remain a real threat.

Nevertheless, I’m confident that we will, one way or another, muddle through. Because when it comes to the deficit, Congress really has two choices: Do something to solve it, or do nothing and let that solve it. The same can’t be said for issues such as infrastructure and loose nukes and climate change and preparing for pandemic flu. On those questions, congressional inaction isn’t enough to make the problem disappear. So those are the issues I worry about.