Deficit Reform My Keester
left, and Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., co-chairs of the National
Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (April 2010).
Photograph © Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.
The fully predictable has happened. The right-leaning (Erskine Bowles) and 'aw, shucks' reactionary (Alan Simpson), co-chairs of Obama's "bipartisan" deficit reduction commission, have announced what they think should happen. As Paul Krugman writes in The Times today: "It seemed obvious, as soon as the commission’s membership was announced, that 'bipartisanship' would mean what it so often does in Washington: a compromise between the center-right and the hard-right."
As I have argued here many times before, bi-partisanship is bad politics - it gets us regressive, incoherent policy and, more importantly, it subverts the competition on which democracy itself relies. (If you are interested in reasons and examples aplenty look here and then here.) Fortunately, there are some people and groups out there who seem willing to call the co-chair's proposal what it is - reactionary twaddle. This proposal is clearly meant as an agenda setting move. The thinking goes like this: 'If we make an extreme initial claim we will likely end up with something only slightly less regressive." There is all sorts of talk about 'shared-sacrifice' in the face of deficits. But the sources of our deficits are easy to see (look here and here) and gutting Social Security (for instance) is irrelevant to getting them under control. The working and middle classes, to say nothing of the poor, in America already have undertaken sacrifices as the rich have run off with the goodies. That has been going on for three decades. What we need now is redress, not shared sacrifice.
As Krugman also writes: "It will take time to crunch the numbers here, but this proposal clearly represents a major transfer of income upward, from the middle class to a small minority of wealthy Americans." Obama, like the Clinton-ites before him, is adept at that game. It runs under the guise of bi-partisanship, so Obama can position himself between Bowles and Simpson and look like the great compromise-r. But being between two positions doesn't necessarily make you centrist.