We need to defuse the doomsday device of sequestration and sudden tax increases that the political parties put in place last year as a result of the last failed "Grand Bargain." That alone will be challenging, since it involves some actual negotiating over budget priorities and tax increases. Why on Earth would we think we can go from totally dysfunctional to a complete rewrite of the tax code and every single major spending program?
Comprehensive reform is hard. We should be trying to work together on major solutions to fiscal problems. We need to develop a tax code that is once again progressive in nature and where the actual rate paid is in line with the apparent rate (by which I mean that individuals who by their income should pay one rate in reality pay a much lower rate due to operation of the code). I am all for ditching bizarre rituals like patching the Alternative Minimum Tax every year and replacing it with something we will actually pay. But a lame duck session with barely a month of actual work time is NOT the time to attempt such a major overhaul.
You know who will end up writing the actual legislation in such a "Grand Bargain?" Lobbyists, edited by a handfull of staffers in a rush. Members will not have time to do anything detailed or considered. Members beyond the small group involved in the drafting will not even have time to read the bill, which will be thousand of pages and presented to them with no time to read and told they must vote yes NOW! It will be filled with ill-considered compromise language with horrible unforeseen consequences.
But we insist on setting up for failure with talk of a "Grand Bargain," aided and abetted by celebrity hounds posing as political leaders strutting in front of a 24-hour media working this latest crisis into a frenzy.
Don't try for a Grand Bargain. Try for "competence" or at least "less dysfunctional." If you can manage that by the end of the year, we can move on to other projects like "overhaul the tax code" and "revamp social safety net programs" (to make them more effective, not just to cut funding for the poor).