Obama Should Take Up the Bowles-Simpson Plan

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In a new column for the Financial Times, I offer the president some advice:

The right question to ask of the Bowles-Simpson plan is not whether the chairmen's advice will be followed in full. It would be good if it were, but it will not be. The right question is what Mr Obama does next. Will he see the plan as a way for him to take charge and make the US think hard about ends and means - which he, the rest of the political class and the country as a whole have avoided up to now? Or will he see the plan, for which he himself asked, as political poison and hide?...

Mr President, here is your chance. You appointed two excellent chairman to lead your commission. Here is their advice. Accept it. Take ownership of it. Infuriate the zealots on Capitol Hill and, for heaven's sake, do something with it.

Charlie Cook has even drafted the speech:

My fellow Americans...

Last week a report was issued by two outstanding Americans, former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming and Erskine Bowles, a Democrat and former chief of staff to President Clinton--the co-chairmen of a deficit and entitlement commission that I set up a year ago. Reading their recommendations carefully, I found little that I liked. I can't imagine any Democrat who would be enthusiastic about many of the recommendations, particularly the spending cuts and changes to Social Security. But I am sure that the incoming speaker of the House, John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and just about every Republican hate many of the recommendations as well. The fact that people of both parties find so much to dislike suggests that this is not a plan that favors either side...

I eagerly wait to hear what the other 16 members of the deficit commission say, but I think we all need to put our partisan and ideological feelings aside and seriously consider passing much of what Simpson and Bowles have suggested.
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