Instead, the committee should consider a real grand bargain, one that takes real courage. First, act to boost the economy and put people to work. Extend the payroll-tax cuts and unemployment benefits. Do what any sane corporate executive would do with interest rates extraordinarily low — borrow a lot of money and, if you’re the U.S. government, launch a major drive to rebuild America’s decrepit infrastructure. Add direct public employment for veterans returning from battlefields abroad, and for young people — the one in five high school graduates who are unemployed and not in college — ensuring that they don’t begin their adult lives with despair, depression and drugs. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) has a bill that would create 2.2 million jobs through an Urban Corps, a Green Corps and more.
Combine that with serious long-term deficit reduction, designed to kick in when the economy gets moving. If courage were the measure, the supercommittee would go after those who have both contributed the most to and benefited the most from the mess. Tax millionaires, close offshore corporate tax havens and dodges like the one that allows hedge-fund billionaires to pay effectively lower tax rates than the cops who keep their streets safe. Levy a small speculation tax to curb the kind of computerized gambling that increasingly roils the stock markets.