Excerpted from Sunday's Chicago Tribune:
A lot of Americans think the federal government can't do anything it sets out to do. But that's erroneous. What we have learned in the last decade is that presidents and Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are very good at running up government debt. That's the reason for the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, appointed by President Barack Obama to find ways to stem the red ink. Under President George W. Bush, who had a GOP Congress for most of his tenure, a budget that had been running a surplus plunged into deficits. Under Obama, the pace of deficit spending has become even scarier. The tax cuts passed under Bush are scheduled to expire Dec. 31. Republicans want to extend them, and the administration agrees except when it comes to upper-income households.
But if Congress and the president can't agree, they will all vanish, hitting the economy with a big tax increase. Given the ever-deepening budget hole in which Washington finds itself, there is some appeal in trying to pull in more tax revenues. But at this stage, it would be a terrible mistake, not only for the health of the economy but for the nation's long-term fiscal health. Nor does it make sense to place a new weight on the economy when it is struggling to grow. At the same time, Congress can't afford to indulge the notion that endless borrowing is a sustainable strategy. The wisest option is to extend the tax cuts for a year and then see what the deficit commission proposes to curtail our addiction to debt.