As many have noted, the Very Serious People in Washington have a peculiar love affair with the Bowles-Simpson commission, or more accurately the report produced by the two co-chairs of the commission. (The report is often referred to as a report of the commission. This is not true since it did not have the support of the necessary majority of commission members.) There is no one in Washington who is more Serious, than Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt.
Hiatt once again expressed his disappointment that President Obama did not embrace the co-chairs' report.
"At home, the fateful moment came in 2011 when Obama cold-shouldered the bipartisan panel he had appointed to right the nation’s finances for the long term. That, too, was a decision in keeping with the polls.
"The Simpson-Bowles commission had called for higher taxes and slower growth in Medicare and Social Security spending."
Hiatt is either unfamiliar with the commission's by-laws that required that a report have the support of 12 of the 16 commission members or simply decided to mislead readers. The point is that in reality Obama did not "cold-shoulder" the commission, since the commission did not produce a report, contrary to what Hiatt asserts.
However the substance is even more fun. Hiatt tells readers:
"Instead of chaining themselves to 20th-century arguments and interest groups, Democrats could have begun to shape — and realistically promise to pay for — a 21st-century progressive program focusing on early education and other avenues to opportunity. They could have resources for family policies that really would help address the wage gap."
Okay, never mind that we don't have family policies that can address the wage gap. (Maybe teach the families of corporate directors to tell them not to take bribes to let CEOs get outlandish pay?) The more striking point is that Hiatt is criticizing President Obama for not cutting Medicare, but in fact Medicare spending is now projected to be less than what it would have been with the Bowles-Simpson cuts.
In 2020, the last year for their budget proposal, Bowles and Simpson projected that we would spend $1,461 billion on Medicare and other health care programs. The latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office show us spending $1,417 billion in 2020 on health care programs.
We can argue over the cause of the slowdown in health care spending, but in any case we have actually achieved greater savings in this area than Bowles and Simpson had hoped to achieve with their cuts. In other words, if the point was to free up money for other programs, we got more than what Bowles-Simpson would have given us. It's therefore difficult to see what he is complaining about. Of course if the point was to inflict pain on middle income people then Hiatt's disappointment is more readily understandable.
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