While Republicans and Democrats continue to fight over how to reduce America’s debt and deficits — moving from near-government shutdowns to failed super committees and opposition to both spending cuts and tax increases — the government of Belgium may have inadvertently provided Congress with an example of how to fix the problem: do absolutely nothing.
After 536 days without a government, Belgian opposition parties struck a deal today to form a new coalition led by Socialist Elio Di Rupo. On this side of the pond, 563 days without any congressional action on fiscal or budgetary measures would go most of the way toward achieving the deficit reduction Congress is longing for. As Center for American Progress Director of Tax and Budget Policy Michael Linden has pointed out, if Congress were do to nothing between now and January 2013 (just 397 days from now), the federal budget deficit would fall to just 1.6 percent of gross domestic product and continue dropping after that:
Similarly, debt as a share of GDP would fall to just 61 percent by 2021:
Such reductions would take place primarily due to the expiration of the budget-busting Bush tax cuts, which cost roughly $2.5 trillion over 10 years. The spending cuts triggered by the inability of the supercommittee to reach a deal would also take place, and multiple policies that Congress generally kicks down the road, like the alternative minimum tax, would also take effect.
Of course, there are policies Congress could enact to actually help unemployed Americans and the struggling economy, like passing laws that would create jobs and stimulate growth while addressing much-needed improvements in infrastructure and other areas. But if the goal is only to reduce debt and deficits, perhaps it’s better if members take their cue from the Belgians and just go home for a year or two.