Just in Time for the Holidays, an Avalanche of Debt Reports

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Three debt commissions, two-party fissions ... and a partridge in a pear tree. If you care about the debt, the end of the year will be the equivalent of 12 Days of Christmas (or, if you prefer, Channukah and a half). Almost every week this holiday season will bring a new project on how to fix the US debt crisis that looms at the end of our slow recovery.

Deficit hawk Pete Peterson kicked things off with a satirical campaign Hugh Jidette for President (sound it out), with promises like, "'I'll keep using your taxes to pay over $100 billion a year in interest to foreign lenders." The Pew Economic Policy Group followed up with a bipartisan plan to reform Social Security. In the next few weeks, look forward to three wise-man reports on budget reform:

The cavalcade of recommendations is set to continue Wednesday, when the joint Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform plans to release its report, "Getting Back in the Black," a project helmed by former congressmen Bill Frenzel (R-Minn.), Tim Penny (D-Minn.) and Charles Stenholm (D-Tex.). The commission is comprised of a host of budget luminaries, including almost all the former directors of the Congressional Budget Office, and has developed a detailed plan to stabilize the debt at 60 percent of gross domestic product.

Another bipartisan panel led by former Republican senator Pete V. Domenici (N.M.) and Clinton budget director Alice Rivlin (the only person to sit on all three commissions) will follow with a report next week.

Meanwhile, the 18 members of the president's commission - which includes a dozen sitting lawmakers - plan to gather Wednesday for their first post-election session to receive official cost estimates.

Read on at the Washington Post.

As readers should know, I think these reports are important, that our medium- and long-term debt crisis is real, and that Washington's ability to respond to a slow-burn crisis like this is utterly broken. But I also worry that the elevation of deficit hawkery is both half-baked and premature. Half-baked because Republicans are unrealistic about the need for tax increases and Democrats are unrealistic about the need for entitlement reform and spending cuts. Premature because the economy needs more medicine, not less, with unemployment at 10 percent, inflation dangerously low, and interest rates flat on the floor.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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