With President Obama overseas his co-chairs of the president’s Fiscal Commission Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson released their proposal for how address and reduce the deficit by 4 trillion dollars by 2020. The overall suggestions include a combination of spending cuts and tax increases with, most troubling, Social Security square in the commission’s sights.
The immediate reaction by the left was to strongly denounce the report and the recommendations. The reaction should come as no surprise, and neither should the recommendations, because while the commission has been labeled “bi-partisan” it is helmed by individuals who have a philosophical disdain for government social welfare programs. Simpson in particular has come under fire for his remarks that Social Security allows millions of Americans to “feed off the government’s teet,” so it is little wonder that he would recommend slashing benefits and raising the retirement age.
Among the proposals that reflect the worst in this small government thinking include a recommendation that veterans pay for their combat injuries, a hike on the payroll tax that would strike a serious blow to working Americans, in addition to the slash in social security benefits all to allow for larger reductions in taxes for corporations and people in the top income bracket. Again, despite the fact that the commission was charged with coming up with ways to address the deficit it looks more like a bait and switch of deficit reduction to government reduction.
Worst of all, those Republicans who campaigned, and won, on the idea of deficit reduction will find in the report ammunition for their cause, despite the fact that all the real efforts at addressing the debt fall squarely on the working people and not those who can truly afford it.
But, as Adam Sewer points out, hope is not lost for the Democrats with this report, presuming they can muster up the spine for a fight. So far every fiscal policy proposal launched by the incoming Republican leadership flies in the face of deficit reduction. Extending the Bush tax cuts will increase the deficit, as will repealing the Affordable Care Act (as an interesting aside, the report actually endorses a robust public option as a means of further reducing the deficit offering any ambitious Democrat on opening to restart debate on amending the Affordable Care Act to include such an option).
The response from the White House has been lukewarm and full of platitude. President Obama has repeatedly acknowledged that in order to properly address the deficit both sides will need to make some sacrifice. This is obviously true and applies to any major policy initiative. The real question that remains outstanding though is whether or not as a country we will ask even more sacrifice from those who can least afford it. We know that is exactly what the Republicans will propose. But what about the Democrats?
photo courtesy of neovain via Flickr
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