While Jim McTague of Barron’s seems to place too much value on the notion of Congress “doing something” — even if that “something” has long-term, unintended negative consequences — his latest column does offer some interesting ideas.
Chore No. 1 on their to-do-nothing list is the adoption of a bipartisan budget accord to replace the automatic, across-the-board budget reductions demanded by the 2011 Budget Control Act, with cuts that are more palatable to both parties and their respective voter bases.
A 29-member conference committee headed by Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray of Washington State has been struggling to produce a moderate accord since the government shutdown ended in early October. They are at loggerheads as the Dec. 13 deadline approaches. Democrats want some tax hikes in exchange for cuts to entitlements, and Republicans want cuts to entitlements without tax hikes. Neither side is willing to horse-trade, which is a hallmark of do-nothingism.
But as the talks with Iran have demonstrated, moderate concessions can go a long way to producing a result. If Ryan offers, say, to raise fee income or to sacrifice hedge funds and their carried-interest dodge in return for a less-generous cost-of-living formula for the entitlement programs, and if Murray grunts approval, then risk off!