Ezra calls this "the graph all budget discussions should start with."
That’s Austin Frakt’s graph, which uses the Congressional Budget Office’s September numbers, and it shows what happens if we do ... nothing. The answer, as you can see, is that the budget comes roughly into balance. Our problems are solved!
But nothing is hard to do. This nothing, for instance, includes three crucial elements: (1) All the Bush tax cuts expire, as they’re currently scheduled to do; (2) The Medicare doc fix is either implemented or its repeal is paid for over the next 70 years; and (3) the Affordable Care Act is implemented, and all of its spending targets are met and all of its taxes are collected.
Except for No. 3, this isn’t the Obama administration’s plan. They want to extend most of the Bush tax cuts, and they don’t have a doc fix. But this is, nevertheless, a pretty good plan. For one thing, it doesn’t require 60 votes in the Senate. What requires 60 votes in the Senate, rather, is stopping it from happening.
Right now, doing nothing sounds like a pretty damned good idea, compared to the alternatives that seem to be on offer. The Ryan plan? The catfood commission non-report?
Of course, there could also be a truly progressive alternative, like the "Our Fiscal Future" proposal from Demos, the Century Fund, and the Economic Policy Institute.