We can't wait for the debt crisis, Mr. President

The supposed concessions that Obama has offered on reforming entitlements won’t even begin to solve the problem. Changing the measure of inflation used to calculate Social Security benefits, for instance (known as “chained CPI”), would save only $127 billion over the next decade, or less than 1 percent of the $47.2 trillion in projected spending over that time. And that $47.2 trillion assumes that all of the deficit reduction he’s signed and all of the automatic spending cuts (which Obama has described in apocalyptic terms) remain in effect…

There are several problems with waiting for an actual crisis to hit before taking action. To start, it limits the range of options available to lawmakers and results in ugly policy. It is difficult to balance problems such as inflation and rising interest rates with economic growth. Dramatic tax increases, for instance, might help reduce deficits, but they would also depress the economy, which in turn would hinder revenue growth.

Emergency measures are likely to be much more disruptive to the economy and to people’s lives. As the Congressional Budget Office wrote last month, “Deciding now what policy changes to make to resolve that long-term imbalance would allow for gradual implementation, which would give households, businesses, and state and local governments time to plan and adjust their behavior.” It’s also fairer to spread the policy changes among multiple generations, rather than imposing more drastic measures on a future generation.