Friday, November 12, 2010

Lede Balloon

The leak of the report of the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction commission makes it pretty clear that they aren’t going to make anyone happy.

By putting deep spending cuts and substantial tax increases on the table, President Obama’s bipartisan debt-reduction commission has exposed fissures in both parties, underscoring the volatile nature and long odds of any attempt to address the nation’s long-term budget problems.

Among Democrats, liberals are in near revolt against the White House over the issue, even as substantive and political forces push Mr. Obama to attack chronic deficits in a serious way. At the same time, Republicans face intense pressure from their conservative base and the Tea Party movement to reject any deal that includes tax increases, leaving their leaders with little room to maneuver in any negotiation and at risk of being blamed by voters for not doing their part.

Well, if Mr. Obama was seeking bipartisanship, he at least achieved it here: both sides hate the ideas being put forth. Among them is increasing the age for Social Security eligibility and raising taxes.

Paul Krugman
sums it up:

It’s no mystery what has happened on the deficit commission: as so often happens in modern Washington, a process meant to deal with real problems has been hijacked on behalf of an ideological agenda. Under the guise of facing our fiscal problems, Mr. Bowles and Mr. Simpson are trying to smuggle in the same old, same old — tax cuts for the rich and erosion of the social safety net.

Can anything be salvaged from this wreck? I doubt it. The deficit commission should be told to fold its tents and go away.

It seems pretty clear that this was a trial balloon put out to draw fire; already you’re hearing anonymous sources in the White House and the debt commission trying to bat it down. And as Kevin Drum points out, the plan really can’t be taken seriously since it spends so much time talking about the small stuff — discretionary spending — and avoids the big issues like entitlements and defense.

So as a trial balloon, this was more like a lead one.