Do nothing: Send Congress home to save some cash 2011.12.07

Written by David Green.

The country of Belgium has inadvertently provided the U.S. with a way of solving a good share of its financial woes: Just do nothing.

Belgium went without a government for 536 days—a modern world record—and that offers a solution for us. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, if Congress continues in its current deadlocked fashion and is unable to pass any measures to address our economic woes, the budget deficit will nearly disappear.

In other words, if our elected officials just went home, the federal deficit would become smaller and smaller. Perhaps we could just lay them off and force them to live off unemployment benefits and buy their own health insurance. We know that’s a silly example because 47 percent of our representatives and senators are millionaires.

Projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office find that if Congress were to do nothing until January 2013, the budget deficit—as a percentage of the gross domestic product—would plunge from its current 8.5 percent to only 1.6 percent by 2014.

If nothing is done about the special debt reduction committee’s failure to agree on a solution, then $1.2 trillion worth of cuts will automatically begin.

If Congress can’t come up with the votes to renew the Bush-era tax cuts—now under an extension from Obama-era actions—the debt will fall by $3 trillion, or about 40 percent of the deficit.

These are the tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest five percent of households.

Other tax breaks and Medicare adjustments are scheduled to expire by the end of the year, adding up to an additional $2 trillion.

In fact, says Michael Linden of the Center for American Progress, the do-nothing option reduces the deficit by much more than any other plan on the table, and all of them, including the Republican budget plan, would increase debt by $1 trillion or more.

Linden knows the do-nothing plan does not necessarily lead to the best outcome, and it leaves unanswered questions. How would it affect job creation and economic growth? Who would bear the burden? Would it solve underlying problems?

The problem is that Congress will likely only make things worse, making the simple do-nothing plan somewhat attractive. Perhaps we should just send them all home.

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