Would Somebody Tell The Senate That Simpson-Bowles Was A Bust

Bill Scher

After President Obama declined to embrace any specific recommendation from the Simpson-Bowles proposal that originated in his deficit commission, you might have thought that the plan would be buried for good, But key senators won’t let it die the death the public feels it deserves. Politico reports:

Under [Senate Budget Chair Kent] Conrad’s scenario, the annual spring budget resolution would be expanded to 10 years and effectively adopt deficit reduction targets set by the commission [Note: there are no targets set by the White House deficit commission, because it failed to adopt a plan. There is the Simpson-Bowles proposal named after the co-chairs which some commissioners supported.] Within these parameters, Conrad has discussed allowing a free-wheeling debate in the committee to build a bipartisan consensus on how to meet these goals.

A second, parallel effort, led by Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), seeks to transform the [Simpson-Bowles proposal] into real legislation that could be debated—and amended—but would give senators a comprehensive plan as a starting point.

It’s all fine and good if senators want to get together and take deficit reduction seriously, but why use the Simpson-Bowles plan as the starting point? It’s a colossal failure.

The whole idea of having a bipartisan deficit commission was to show that if both sides put aside partisanship and ideological rigidity that we could finally come up with the best possible proposal that the vast majority of Americans would rally behind.

But that didn’t happen.

What we got was a proposal that largely focused on areas that have little to no bearing on our fiscal health, while barely touching upon the main driver of our deficits: health care costs.

We got a proposal that failed to prioritize jobs by slashing the federal workforce and by waiting until unemployment was reduced to tolerable level before embarking on cuts.

And we got a proposal that saw its main provisions be rejected by the public in poll after poll after poll.

Simpson-Bowles was a policy bust and a political fizzle.

If it was brilliant policy and a popular smash hit, then I suspect the President would have had a lot more nice things to say about it at his State of the Union address. He clearly saw the writing on the wall, why can’t these senators?

Now, sometimes we shouldn’t govern by polls, because what’s necessary may not be popular at the moment.

But the Simpson-Bowles approach to deficit reduction is far from the only way to achieve deficit reduction.

The Citizens Commission, the Economic Policy Institute, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and former SEIU chief Andy Stern all have plans that would successfully reduce the deficit and receive far greater public support, based on the polling we have seen.

Yet these senators are still treating Simpson-Bowles like it’s only game in town.

A serious deficit hawk wouldn’t waste time with a failed proposal. A serious deficit hawk would go back to the drawing board, then size up what’s necessary to do and what the public will accept.

These men are not only failing to be serious, they are acting like the blind ideologues whom they claim to deride, clinging to their Simpsonism no matter what facts are put before them.

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