This is the question that will be asked by readers of his column complaining that no one is listening to Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson. Milbank complains that Obama is only willing to cut Medicare by the $400 billion amount advocated in Bowles-Simpson's initial plan. (Milbank mistakenly calls this the commission's plan. The commission did not issue a plan since no plan received the necessary majority vote.) Milbank attacks Obama on these points:
"But that proposal was made in 2010, and the nation’s finances have since deteriorated."
If Milbank had access to budget documents he would know that the nation's finances have deteriorated because the economy has performed worse than the Congressional Budget Office had expected. In 2010, it expected that unemployment rate would average just 6.5 percent for the years 2012-2014 (Table 2-3). The country did not have a lavish spending spree or tax cutting orgy, it ran larger deficits because the economy has been weaker and needed and needs more support.
Milbank condemns the failure of Obama to support more budget cuts, and specifically more cuts in Medicare, in the face of economic weakness as being unserious. (He also condemns Republicans for being unwilling to raise taxes. Milbank's attachment to Medicare cuts is striking since CBO's projections for Medicare costs have actually fallen by more than the cuts originally advocated by Bowles and Simpson.
Anyhow, for Milbank it is clear that the goal is to inflict pain on ordinary people, throwing them out of work and taking away Medicare and Social Security. In the Washington Post this is the criterion for being serious.
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