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The House Republican budget drafted by Ryan and declared “marvelous” by Romney reduces the debt to just 10 percent of GDP, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But it achieves this by slashing domestic discretionary programs — everything from the FBI and Border Patrol to education and national parks — to less than 1 percent of GDP from the present 4 percent, according to figures from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
A centrist energy policy would be a true “do it all” approach — drilling now, researching alternatives and gradually raising carbon taxes.
Neither Obama nor Romney has even addressed the most immediate threat to the American economy — the “fiscal cliff” we’re approaching at the end of this year thanks to the two parties’ repeated refusal to make policy choices in a timely manner.
At the end of the year, the Bush tax cuts expire. So do “patches” protecting middle-class taxpayers from paying the alternative minimum tax, the 2 percent payroll tax holiday and expanded unemployment benefits.
Doctors will see reimbursements for Medicare patients cut by 22 percent, or $40 billion. And the automatic spending sequester imposed when the Congressional super committee failed to agree on budget cuts last summer will reduce defense outlays by 10 percent and non-defense spending by 8 percent for a total one-year drop of $160 billion.
According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, those hits “would be roughly equivalent to taking 3.5 percent of GDP out of the economy.” The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the unemployment rate will rise by 1.1 percent next year.
On top of all this, the current extension of the federal debt ceiling expires at the end of the year. Failure to raise it would lead to the default narrowly avoided last year.
My guess, my hope, would be that a centrist candidate would propose Simpson-Bowles as the answer to most of the issues involved with deficits and debt — the 4-to-1 spending-cut/revenue-increase formula recommended by Obama’s debt commission in 2011 and promptly abandoned by the president.
While Obama appeals to a base of liberals (20 percent of the electorate) and Democrats (31 percent) and Romney appeals to Republicans (27 percent) and conservatives (40 percent), a third-party candidate could draw from independents (40 percent) and moderates (35 percent).
It would be a worthy fight to wage.