They put the band back together. The Gang of Six – now a Gang of Eight, with Lamar Alexander and Michael Bennet added to the roster of Crapo, Coburn, Chambliss, Warner, Durbin and Conrad, met in Virginia yesterday, aiming to create a grand bargain of tax increases, spending cuts and vaguely worded “entitlement reforms” (you can call it cuts, it’s OK) that would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years.
The impetus this time is the set of expiring measures known in Washington as the fiscal cliff, which if allowed to expire entirely could throw the economy back into recession.
But the word “cliff” does a lot of work here. If there is a drop-dead date, a point of no return where the unwinding of the damage would be too great, then the sense of urgency generated by the Gang of Eight would make more sense. But it actually doesn’t work that way. The economy won’t fall off a cliff, but amble down a slope, in a way that allows for much more deliberative conversation about the best practices for the economy today, not just in the future.