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fiscal responsibility vs. fiscal conservatism

When it comes to the pending expiration of the budget-busting Bush tax cuts, Ezra Klein suggests that the next few months will give Congressional deficit hawks "a rare and valuable opportunity:"

They can do nothing and bring the federal budget much closer to balance. At issue is the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. If allowed to lapse, they'd improve the deficit outlook by about $4 trillion over the next 10 years -- and more after that. [...] This will be a test for any politician who claims to care about the deficit. If they're willing to let the tax cuts expire -- a tough decision, given the politics of taxes -- it's good evidence that they're serious about cutting the debt. If they're not willing to let the cuts expire, it's irrefutable evidence that they're not.

This stance is echoed by Dave Johnson at Center for American Progress:

The real jobs and deficit test is coming when the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire this year. If Congress lets them expire, deficit fears and pressures are reduced considerably and there will be money to create jobs, maintain and modernize infrastructure, make the nation competitive in world markets, help the unemployed, upgrade health insurance and so many other badly-needed tasks.

The two dashed lines in this graph represent the federal debt under two scenarios: the lower one where the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule (fiscal responsibility) and the upper one where they are extended (fiscal conservatism):

20100702-donothing.jpg

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