Low-Hanging Fruit?

Greg Mankiw is getting a lot of attention for a post on the alleged mythology of Obamacare reducing the deficit:

I have a plan to reduce the budget deficit.  The essence of the plan is the federal government writing me a check for $1 billion.  The plan will be financed by $3 billion of tax increases.  According to my back-of-the envelope calculations, giving me that $1 billion will reduce the budget deficit by $2 billion.

Clive Crook, in a very helpful post, notes:

This is not up to Mankiw's usual standards.

Reihan admirably faces the need for more cost-cutting and more revenue:

I believe that we will most likely need to increase average tax rates not marginal tax rates as well as implement deep spending cuts to address long-run deficits. The trouble with PPACA is that it deployed virtually all of the “low-hanging tax fruit,” i.e., it attached many opaque tax increases that were just confusing or stealthy enough to dull political resistance to significant spending increases rather than employing them to the existing budget shortfall.

Ezra Klein explained a few days ago why the low-hanging fruit argument doesn't make a whole lot of sense:

Republicans don't want the cost controls -- they've repeatedly singled them out for attack, and made a very conscious decision to attempt a fiscally irresponsible repeal bill -- and liberals don't want them without the coverage expansion. People who talk about these cuts and taxes and projects as "low-hanging fruit" that can be easily plucked by future deficit hawks are sadly misguided. Without coverage hawks (health hawks? life hawks?) in the coalition, you don't have enough votes.

And Chait takes Krauthammer to task for Mankiw's brand of arithmetic.