In the Arena

From Cliff to Ceiling

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The relentlessly sane Michael Tomasky shows why the next silly Washington crisis is manufactured, synthetic baloney.

Regular readers may have noticed my lack of concern with the fiscal cliff. A resumption of the Clinton tax rates wouldn’t have been catastrophic–after all, the economy boomed under those rates in the 90s. And now we have the Republicans again threatening…di. sas.ter. Bankruptcy! A government shutdown! I’d guess that the public will see this as further evidence of the GOP’s lack of seriousness, and so will the business community.

In the summer of 2011, when the debt ceiling last threatened to devour Cleveland, the value of  US treasury bonds actually strengthened. The rest of the world didn’t believe that we were going to default on our bills. Our credit was still good. As it will be.

This doesn’t mean that the President shouldn’t work on the long-term deficit problem, especially a dysfunctional health care system. There are ways to make Medicare less expensive and better. I’ve written about these before. Senators like Ron Wyden(D) and Bob Corker (R) plus Reps. like Jim Cooper (D) and, yes, Paul Ryan (R) could develop a plan that will move us gradually toward a Medicare system that trends away from fee-for-service medicine. The data gleaned from electronic record-keeping will point doctors and hospitals toward the most cost-effective practices. This could save a lot of money–and eventually lead to a seamless system that includes Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare.

There are other steps the President needs to take to reform, and streamline, the federal bureaucracy. If he’s smart, he’ll make this part of his legacy. But these reforms need to be undertaken thoughtfully, without the foolishness of imagined cliffs and ceilings. That is the way a great country–one that is definitely not headed toward disaster–would do it. It is time to start ignoring the hog-callers who think, or pretend to think, that there are such things as cliffs, or ceilings, in the bright American future.