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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bowles-Simpson Report: Eyes of the Beholder

The official release of the Deficit Commission report was one of those events that could be interpreted in a wide variety of ways. No, the report did not receive the 14 commission votes necessary to trigger a vote on its recommendations by Congress. But it obtained 11 votes, including influential representatives of both parties (e.g., Tom Coburn and Dick Durbin), and certainly solidified the impression that Democrats and Republicans alike think (or at least say) that deficit reduction is an urgent national priority.
But will any of the specific recommendations made by the commission gain traction, in isolation from the overall package? That’s very hard to say, since very few of them seem to have genuine bipartisan support, and instead depend on a balance of ideas repugnant to one of the two parties. Ezra Klein does a good job of identifying “best” and “worst” ideas in the proposal. But the horsetrading value of an idea in the context of partisan gridlock isn’t necessarily related to its rationality; a matched set of “bad” ideas that are least objectionable to Democrats and Republicans could be easier to sell. And that’s the problem with “bipartisan solutions” in a partisan era.

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