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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Bowles-Simpson Report: It Ain’t Happenin’

So the co-chairmen of the deficit reduction commission appointed at the insistence of President Obama released their proposals today well in advance of the December 1 deadline for the full commission report. They did this, we are told, in order to preempt leaks, and perhaps in order to put pressure on the commission itself, which at this point is very unlikely to muster the required 14 of 18 votes for a deficit reduction plan that would be sent on to Congress.
If this is the Bowles-Simpson strategy, it probably won’t work. The proposals themselves are heavily skewed towards the Republican approach to deficit reduction, as noted by Jonathan Chait:

About three-quarters of the savings come from spending cuts. And the one-quarter that comes from increased revenue comes through an overhauled tax code with lower marginal rates and corporate income tax rates–that is, something that is a fairly good deal for conservatives on its own terms.

The spending cuts, moreover, include Social Security benefits cuts (via a different basis for cost of living adjustments and a delayed retirement age) that will be about as popular among Democrats as the bubonic plague. Without a Republican commitment to the kind of significant increases in taxes on the wealthy and on corporations that they’ve always rejected, and that are entirely missing in this proposal, there’s no way most Democrats will agree to that.
But preliminary indications are that GOPers will reject the Bowles-Simpson proposal out of hand on a very different ground. Check out this post from James Capretta at National Review’s The Corner:

[T]he most important entitlement decision in the entire package is the explicit endorsement of Obamacare. The Bowles-Simpson proposal would leave in place the entire trillion-dollar monstrosity. Indeed, many of its supposed cost-cutting recommendations would build on Obamacare’s flawed structure of government-driven cost-cutting through price controls. In particular, they would like to create what amounts to a global budget on health care, with the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) given the unilateral authority to hit budget targets with price cutting. This is exactly the opposite of what’s needed, which is cost discipline through consumer choice in a functioning marketplace.

Ah, yes, the ObamaCare obsession. Conservatives won’t even think about supporting the best deal they’d ever get from any entity including any Democrats if it doesn’t go along with their argument that health reform is the greatest threat to the federal budget, and to the country (never mind that independent experts, including the Congressional Budget Office that House Republicans will soon be relying on to estimate the cost of their own proposals, insist health care reform will reduce the budget deficit significantly).
I don’t know what if anything the full deficit commission will be able to agree on, but it’s reasonably clear the Bowles-Simpson trial balloon did not get far off the ground.

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