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Just as a willingness to tackle Medicare (and healthcare costs in general) is the litmus test for being serious about the long-term federal deficit, there’s a litmus test for being serious about the medium term deficit too. Here it is: you should be in favor of letting the Bush tax cuts expire in 2012. All of them.

There was a case for keeping them in place last year since the economy was still fragile. By 2013 this won’t be true any longer, and letting the cuts expire would wipe out half of the federal deficit at a stroke over the next decade. What’s more, since we’d just be reverting to the same tax rates we had in the 90s, when the economy boomed, we know that this would do no harm to economic growth.

This ought to be the first question you ask any deficit hawk. If they’re OK with letting the cuts expire, then the conversation can continue. If not, they’re just preening.

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We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

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