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CHART: The More Congress 'Fails' The More The Deficit Goes Down

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Here are the figures from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

As you can see, the "do nothing" approach practically eliminates the deficit by mid-decade. Congress' preferred approach of whining about the deficit but then voting to make deficits higher blows up the budget very fast.

Of course, there's never been much of an appetite in Congress for letting these things happen. Republicans want to extend all the Bush tax cuts, Democrats want to extend most of them. Republicans and Democrats both want to protect Medicare doctors from a pay cut. And Republicans are already clamoring to repeal and replace the defense spending cuts in the Super Committee penalty.

In fairness, it would be bad policy to allow all of this stuff to happen, and to funnel all of the savings and revenue into reducing the deficit. But for all the agonizing members of both parties have been doing about the deficit, this is a helpful reminder that they really don't care all that much about the deficit.

About The Author

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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com