The Best Plan for the Sequester: Just Kill It

| Wed Feb. 20, 2013 1:28 PM EST

Just in case I've never been clear about this, let me sign up with Paul Waldman on how Congress ought to handle the sequester fight:

For the record, there is a simple solution to the problem of the sequester: Congress should pass a law eliminating it. Not replacing it with a bunch of other budget cuts, not engaging in a new game of chicken, not putting it off for a month or two, not having a bunch of proposals and counter-proposals, just cancelling it, period. Then once that's done, you can start the budget process for real, not because there's a disaster of Congress' own making looming in a week, but through the ordinary legislative process. If you're holding a gun to the American economy's head, the first thing to do is put down the gun.

Yep. There shouldn't be any budget cuts this year. We should be spending more. Ditto for next year, probably. The deficit conversation should be entirely about setting goals for long-term deficit reduction. Obviously that's not trivial, since it's hard to bind the hand of future Congresses, but it's not impossible to make serious progress. Changes in formulas for mandatory programs, for example, will stay in place unless they get repealed by both the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. That's not inconceivable, but it's pretty damn unlikely. Ditto for taxes. Discretionary spending is harder to nail down, but then, discretionary spending really isn't much of a problem anyway.

Pretty plainly, then, this is what we should do. Even Beltway centrists mostly agree, though they're loath to come right out and admit it. Unfortunately, precisely because it actually makes sense, it will never happen.

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