News / USA

    'Do Nothing' Option for US Deficit Reduction Explored

    If Congress went on vacation for the next two years, automatic federal revenues would rise, trimming spending
    If Congress went on vacation for the next two years, automatic federal revenues would rise, trimming spending

    Hopes were dashed this week for bold congressional action to slow the growth of America’s $15 trillion national debt. A special bipartisan committee failed to agree on ways to trim the deficit by $1.2 trillion. But if Congress has shown itself incapable of boldly addressing the U.S. fiscal woes, consider this: current law, if unchanged, would slash deficits by as much as $7 trillion over 10 years.

    For those yearning to see a dramatic reduction in the federal deficit, there is something astonishingly easy Congress could do.

    Absolutely nothing. If Congress went on vacation for the next two years, much would happen automatically to significantly raise federal revenues and trim spending. An array of temporary tax cuts would expire, new taxes would be collected, and automatic cuts to domestic and national defense spending would go into effect. There would be additional savings in U.S. debt-servicing costs.

    All of these measures are written into current U.S. law. If those laws hold, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the annual budget deficit would fall from $1.3 trillion this year to the $500 billion range for most of the next decade - a 60 percent improvement.

    Some in Congress have already seized on this data. Democratic Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon highlights one component: tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush slated to expire next year. “If Congress continued to do nothing, then all the Bush tax cuts go away, $4 trillion of additional revenues. That would take care of 40 percent of the deficit problem over the next 10 years. If they [lawmakers] are really concerned about debt reduction, the ‘do-nothing’ option is the best,” he said.

    Independent budget-watchers say the math is correct: doing nothing would significantly improve U.S. finances.  Jason Peuquet of the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “If Congress just went home over the next several years, then our debt path is not nearly as bad,” he stated.

    But there is a catch.

    “It is really not realistic that Congress just goes home and does not extend the tax cuts, at least part of them,” Peuquet noted.

    Republicans say higher taxes would deal a damaging blow to a shaky U.S. economy, resulting in slower growth that could reduce government revenue. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. “Especially in an economic downturn, like we are in now, it is not a good idea to raise people’s taxes,” he stated.

    Even President Barack Obama has said only the wealthiest Americans should see their taxes go up, and only after the U.S. economy fully recovers. Days ago, Mr. Obama urged Congress to extend and expand a temporary cut in workers’ contribution to the federal retirement income program, Social Security.

    Because so much of what would transpire under current law involves added taxation, the "do-nothing" option appeals most to progressive Democrats eager to avoid the major spending cuts that Republicans advocate. Indeed, all Democrats would have to do to enforce a "hands-off" approach to deficit reduction would be to block all budget-related legislation in the Senate, where they retain a majority. But many Democrats are also wary of massive tax hikes.

    “I think that is not a balanced approach,” Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland said.

    “That is obviously leverage to get to where we need to get to. I am for a full balanced approach that brings down spending and allows the revenues to be adequate to pay for our bills,” Cardin explained.

    Note Senator Cardin’s use of the word “leverage” - meaning Democrats could threaten to block tax cut extensions to pressure Republicans to compromise on a so-called grand bargain of spending cuts and tax hikes. His message foreshadows what could be a furious budget battle next year, when the United States holds general elections.

    You May Like

    Video Somali, AU Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    Somalia’s Western backers frustrated over country’s slow progress in establishing its armed forces to bring security after 25 years of chaos

    Israel Makes Push for Gaza Strip Recovery

    After years of economic blockade and attempts to disable Hamas, Israeli leaders eventually realized that Hamas’ downfall could lead to chaos or the rise of a more radical Jihadist group

    Slump in Chinese Tourists Hitting Hong Kong Retail

    Mainland Chinese account for up to three-quarters of visitors to Hong Kong, but that number is falling, and shopping centers are struggling to 'shift gears' and maintain sales

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shababi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    April 28, 2016 4:20 PM
    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Town Receives Refugees but Lacks Resources

    A wave of refugees is pouring into the Kurdish town of Afrin in northern Syria as a result of fighting between rebel forces and Islamic State militants. VOA’s Amina Misto went to the town and reports local authorities are finding it difficult to cope with this influx of internally displaced people. Bronwyn Benito narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Build Human Tissue on Animal Matrix

    The question has always been, if a gecko can grow back its tail, why can't we regenerate our lost body parts? Well, maybe we can, someday. Scientists are moving towards the ability to rebuild fully functioning organs, and have made significant progress replacing muscles and other tissue.
    Video

    Video Containing Chernobyl Radiation Continues 30 Years After Explosion

    April 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Hundreds were killed following the explosion and it's estimated that thousands more have died from cancers caused by the radiation. Henry Ridgwell traveled to Chernobyl and reports for VOA on the continuing efforts to decommission the site -- and on the fledgling plans for a new future in the vast exclusion zone.
    Video

    Video Frustration Builds Among Refugees Trapped at Macedonian Border

    On the Greek border with Macedonia, 12,000 refugees continue to wait. Since the route to the rest of Europe was closed last month, the makeshift camp at Idomeni has seen protests and tear gas. But while those here wait, their frustration grows — as do reports of people attempting to find new ways of continuing their journey. John Owens reports from Idomeni.
    Video

    Video Researchers: Bees Help Kenyan Farmers Fend Off Elephants

    Elephant crop-raiding continues to be a major source of human-wildlife conflict in Kenya, so one elephant researcher is helping to alleviate the problem near Tsavo East National Park with beehive fences, which use elephants’ natural aversion to bees to deter them from farms. VOA’s Jill Craig visited the area ahead of this month's Giants Club Summit, which will bring together dignitaries at Mount Kenya to find solutions to combat poaching, the No. 1 threat to elephants.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora