Ross claims the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission was a worthwhile exercise despite its failure to produce viable legislation:

The deficit debate has suffered, for some time, from a debilitating light-to-heat ratio. Liberals have accused conservatives of being irresponsible while turning evasive about the massive tax increases that their own vision requires. Conservatives have attacked liberals for being spendthrift without proposing any serious spending reductions of their own. Both sides have talked around the elephant in the room that is entitlement spending.

On all of these fronts, the debate over Simpson-Bowles  and the raft of alternative proposals the deficit commission’s efforts have summoned up has been helpful, clarifying, and even occasionally surprising. Now we know that liberals can wax just as intransigent about entitlements as conservatives can about tax increases. We know what the left really wants, and what the anti-tax lobby would prefer. We know what Nancy Pelosi won’t stand for, and where Tom Coburn and Dick Durbin will consider compromising. We know where Paul Ryan and Alice Rivlin can find common ground. And we know that it’s possible for prominent right-wingers, Coburn now included, to stand up to Grover “better to risk a debt crisis than end a tax subsidy” Norquist, which is inherently good news for both conservatism and the country.

Yes, but ... as long as the GOP is controlled by Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Beck and Levin, Ross's admirable hopes seem almost poignant. But they do offer the president a valuable opportunity to define himself as the anti-debt president, who, as with health insurance, refused to punt to his successor what could be tackled urgently today.

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