Liberals and Conservatives Gag on Deficit-Cutting Proposal

The left hates it most

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Although it's not an official report, President Obama's nonpartisan deficit commission advanced a plan to cut $3.8 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. The plan, drafted by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan K. Simpson, cuts entitlement and defense spending while erasing over $100 billion a year in tax breaks. Thus far, the most impassioned writers on each side of the political spectrum don't like it, with liberals being the most skeptical. Here's blogospheric reaction:

  • Left and Right Are Pouncing on It, writes libertarian Peter Suderman at Reason:

Outgoing Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi doesn’t like it one bit. She said the proposal was “simply unacceptable.” Nor does AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka, who declared that Bowles and Simpson had just told working Americans to “drop dead.” So is the proposal a win for the right? Not according to Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist, who warned that any politician signing onto the plan would be violating his group’s no-new-taxes pledge. And this is just in response to a draft proposal by the two co-chairs—a draft that has not been endorsed by the president, or Republican leadership, or even by the other members of the commission.

  • It's an Awful Plan, writes liberal economist Paul Krugman at The New York Times:

I mean, what’s this about? There is no — zero — evidence that income taxes at current rates are an important drag on growth.

Oh, and they’re talking about raising the retirement age, because people live longer — except that the people who really depend on Social Security, those in the bottom half of the distribution, aren’t living much longer. So you’re going to tell janitors to work until they’re 70 because lawyers are living longer than ever.

Still, I guess this is what it takes to get compromise, if by compromise you mean something the center-right and the hard right can agree on.

  • Yep: Horrible Plan, writes conservative Mattie Corrao at Americans for Tax Reform:
-Spends too much. Government spending has typically been set at 21 percent of GDP, with revenues averaging 18 percent. The plan spends above this level every year until 2040, keeping taxes at around 20 percent to fund this profligacy
-Does nothing to address long-term spending restraint. Instead, the Co-Chairs propose raising taxes to unprecedented levels to sustain excessive government growth. 

-Refuses to acknowledge the impact big government, excessive spending packages such as the “stimulus” plan and bailout bills have had on the country’s solvency. Instead, the plan sets spending at FY2010 levels, starting in FY 2012. This instantiates the “stimulus,” bailout and big government efforts of the past two years for generations to come, costing taxpayers $317 billion more than if outlays were rolled back to FY08 levels.
  • You Can't Call This Non-Partisan, writes liberal blogger Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

Bottom line: this document isn't really aimed at deficit reduction. It's aimed at keeping government small. There's nothing wrong with that if you're a conservative think tank and that's what you're dedicated to selling. But it should be called by its right name. This document is a paean to cutting the federal government, not cutting the federal deficit.

  • It's Terrific! writes The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan, a strong Obama supporter who identifies as conservative.
It really does hit what the Dish regards as key themes for a new fiscal order: 1986-style tax reform (largely removing deductions and lowering rates); serious defense retrenchment; focusing social security on the truly needy and raising the retirement age; hard cost-controls in Medicare; a real populist attack on government waste...

If I were the president, I would embrace this and urge passage of these proposals as the key domestic objective of his next two years in office. If I were the GOP, intent not on politics but on restraining spending and the debt, I would make this a joint endeavor. If I were the Tea Party, I would leap at this as a way past the old two parties toward fiscal sanity.

  • The Details of the Plan Are Terrible, writes liberal columnist Mike Lux at The Huffington Post:

Bowles and Simpson claim that they are being progressive by raising the Capital Gains Tax, but they make up for that by cutting corporate taxes and flattening the tax rates, so there is actually less progressivity in the tax code. They do claim some savings in defense spending and contracting, but a bare fraction of what could be saved if you got serious at all about reforming government contracting. And what they don't do is stunning: they don't go back to the Clinton era's tax rates on the wealthy that actually helped balance the budget. They don't impose a financial transactions tax on the speculative trading that did so much to crash this economy. They do nothing to create the jobs of the future that would actually spur the economic growth of the 1990s that were key in creating the budget surpluses of that era.

  • The Right Is Being More Pragmatic, writes conservative columnist Ross Douthat at The New York Times:

If you accept [a] vision of a close-minded, Ayn Randian right and a pragmatic, non-ideological left, you would expect conservatives to be furious over the means-testing and loophole-closing, and liberals to be delighted to have a more redistributionist welfare state. Yet conservative reaction has been muted and respectful (with a notable exception, admittedly) while liberals have been flatly dismissive. Which suggests that maybe, just maybe, American liberalism has more of an ideological commitment to ever-rising government spending than [some want] to admit.

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