Deficit Commission Fails to Reach Consensus

What now?

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President Obama's deficit commission fell three votes shy this morning of the 14-person supermajority needed for a plan to face an up-or-down vote in Congress. The much-debated proposal sought to rein in the national debt by $3.9 trillion over nine years through a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. So what did the commission accomplish and what are the chances that its ideas will be implemented?

  • The Bowles-Simpson Plan Surfaced Ways to Grow Our Economy and Slash Our $13.8 Trillion Debt, declares Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and commission member, in explaining why he voted for the plan: "All politicians, left or right, Democrat or Republican, have to acknowledge the deficit crisis our nation faces. Borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar we spend for missiles or food stamps is unsustainable. And being indebted for generations to China and OPEC does not make American a stronger nation ... It's time for all of us to come together to make hard choices."
  • It Outlined the Least Bad Option for the Greatest Number of Americans, contends Steven Pearlstein at the Washington Post: "Pushing through a grand budget compromise would be the most effective thing we could do for the economy, even in the short run. Lifting that black cloud and demonstrating to ourselves and the world that our political system can function would provide a big boost to the confidence of consumers, investors and business executives whose 'animal spirits' have been in hibernation. How large a boost? Here's a wild guess: 1,500 points on the Dow Jones industrial average, half a percentage point off the yield on 30-year Treasury bonds, 750,000 jobs created and an extra percentage point of gross domestic product growth in 2011."
  • Absent a Crisis, Will the Commission's Momentum Die at Washington's Doorstep? wonders National Journal's Michael Hirsh. During the commission's discussions, "Suddenly, everything seemed possible: Democrats were talking about cuts in Social Security and Medicare, and small-government Republicans were considering new ways to raise tax revenue—a discussion that in Washington these days is about as close as one gets to Arthurian chivalry ... But all that bonhomie is a long way from saying that this divided government might be ready to take on the hardest problems—fixing the economy and restraining runaway spending and entitlements. The real question is whether the 'adult conversation' will ever translate into actual votes or even make it onto the legislative agenda."
  • With Powerful Legislators Supporting the Plan, Hope Is Not Lost, explains Ezra Klein at the Washington Post. While "it's hard to be confident about the prospects of a difficult package designed to address a long-term problem when you watch the difficulty Congress is having addressing the urgent expiration of a popular raft of tax cuts," a majority that "includes both Durbin and [Republican Senator Tom] Coburn is sufficient for the package's supporters to credibly argue the commission's report deserves consideration by Congress and may indeed be the starting point for a compromise."
  • Obama, in Creating the Commission, Relinquished Control of the Economic Policy Debate, laments David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo: "This shift in focus from economic recovery to deficits actually put the deficit as an issue front and center through the entire election cycle. So now, 10 months later, we still don't have a economic recovery or a deficit reduction plan (let alone a good one). And with Republicans about to take over the House, there's no prospect of either one in the near future."
  • And Now Republicans Should Take the Best Ideas for Their Budget Proposals Next Year, suggests a Wall Street Journal editorial: "Republicans won the recent election by opposing tax increases, and the fastest way to lose that majority would be to break that promise. They should embrace the cuts that make sense and write a budget reflecting the priorities that won majorities in the House and in state legislatures around the country. If Mr. Obama wants to improve his fiscal record, he'll cooperate and strike some deals. If he doesn't, the voters will have a choice in 2012."
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