Bad Reasons to Hate the Deficit Commission

To begrudge Glenn Greenwald his right to hate things is to begrudge a fisherman his right to fish, but I'm not sure I understand Glenn's reasons for hating the president's deficit commission.

The commission's final proposal requires a super-majority among the 18 members, which suggests the final plans will be gnawed by compromise on all sides. To become law, the bill will still require an up-or-down vote in Congress, which keeps senators from striking the backroom-bargains that often cinch complicated legislation. That makes the commission sound pretty feckless, doesn't it?

No, says Greenwald. Instead, the deficit commission is too strong. He writes:

The President's Deficit Commission is designed to be as anti-democratic and un-transparent as possible.

But it requires the approval of a super-majority, 14 out of 18 members, to pass out of the commission. That's not merely democratic. It's super-democratic. A simple majority vote would cause the commission to fail, because it wouldn't be democratic enough. If I was going to design an anti-democratic commission, I'd staff it with one person and require a plurality. Greenwald goes on:

Its work is done in total secrecy.

Surely, not total secrecy. The deficit commission website streams live testimony. I even watched the hours of Social Security debate, and I have the Venti coffee receipts to prove it. The commission is no more secret than, say, any court that considers public testimony and deliberates behind closed doors. Continuing:

Its recommendations will be released in December, right after the election, to ensure that its proposals are shielded from public anger.

Social Security is the most popular government program in America. Does anybody think the deficit commission could propose Social Security reforms and the public would not know? Or ignore them? Or see them and shrug? Workers take holidays. Public anger doesn't know how. Finally:

And the House has passed a non-binding resolution calling for an up-or-down/no-amendments vote on the Commission's recommendations, long considered the key tactic to ensuring its enactment.

Non-binding resolutions are a key tactic: to ensure that nobody makes any changes. That is different -- perhaps the opposite -- from saying they're a key tactic to ensure enactment. Electeds don't like having their hands tied. Remember that Anthony Weiner rant about Republicans not voting for 9/11 workers' health care? The GOP was balking because that bill wouldn't allow for amendments. Both parties will likely balk in December for the same reason.

Lifting up from Greenwald's lede, there are two arguments against the deficit commission. One is that it's a conspiracy so vast that it's stealing democracy from right in front of our nose. The other is it's a pathetic kangaroo court for deficit reduction to make Obama seem like a deficit hawk when he isn't. Surely, it cannot be both all-powerful and totally toothless at the same time.

All this sniping about Simpson and the commission is premature. If the deficit commission comes out with a proposal to dramatically slash seniors' benefits and spare the rich higher taxes, I'll be disappointed. In the meantime, is our appetite for indignation so great and the summer's news so meager that the by-laws of the president-appointed deficit commission deserve our wrath?