What do we need to do to avoid the fiscal cliff?

Although Republicans need to be prepared to jump off the cliff, at the same time they also need to make every reasonable effort to avoid taking this drastic action.  Mr. David Walker, the CEO of Comeback America and former Comptroller General of the United States, has described very clearly, on the Politico website, what kind of deal the Republican House of Representatives should be looking for.

In return for raising taxes on the wealthy, the House should insist on two concessions from the President and the Senate.  First of all, there must be an immediate and significant down payment on the spending cuts required by the sequester.  Comprehensive tax and social insurance reforms, a so-called Grand Bargain, would be deferred until a set date in 2013, to give the new Congress time for careful deliberation.  The debt ceiling limit would be raised just enough to get by until the new deadline next year.   A fail-safe hammer would be put in place to kick in if the deadline is not met.

Mr. Walker suggests that the long term goal, say by 2024, should be to reduce debt to 60% of the economy.  This will require an approximately $4 trillion combination of revenue increases and spending cuts over the next ten years.  There would be appropriate interim milestones set up to be met along the way.  My personal preference is to hold out for a balanced budget by a date certain but the main thing is to negotiate an ironclad agreement to put our fiscal policy on a sustainable path.  Anything less will lead to a dangerous fiscal crisis in the very near future, far worse than the present danger of going off the cliff.

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