CEPR - Center for Economic and Policy Research


En Español

Em Português

Other Languages

Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Paradise Lost: Fred Hiatt and Bowles-Simpson

Paradise Lost: Fred Hiatt and Bowles-Simpson

Tuesday, 22 April 2014 05:19

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.


Comments (11)Add Comment
Next from Hiatt
written by David Cay Johnston, April 22, 2014 7:49
Will the WashPost run a clarification or will Hiatt write a follow?

That is the appropriate response when a column has a fundamental flaw, in this case on the Medicare cost estimate.
Assuming cuts in payments to doctors are actually made.
written by Bill H, April 22, 2014 8:35
The projections for Medicare spending assume that scheduled cuts in payments to doctors will actually be made. To the best of my recollection they never have been made, but have been "postponed" or simply cancelled as the scheduled date for them came due. One such event has occurred since the passage of the ACA, in fact.
Hiatt is Upset Because Obama Did Not Commit Political Suicide
written by Last Mover, April 22, 2014 9:07

Hiatt says,
The Simpson-Bowles commission had called for higher taxes and slower growth in Medicare and Social Security spending. Neither is popular. Had Obama endorsed the recommendations, Democrats would have forfeited their trustiest campaign weapon: warning oldsters that Republicans want to take away their retirement benefits and health care. Obama’s reelection in 2012 seems to vindicate his judgment.

But at what cost? He defeated a weak opponent by tearing him down as a job-killing plutocrat. He didn’t come close to regaining the control of the House that he lost in 2010. His second-term agenda is meager.

Hiatt is upset because he and his were out manuevered by Obama in following the polls. He bashes Obama for not being stupid enough to give up a major campaign weapon that blames Republicans for wanting to take away SS and Medicare so he won't be re-elected. Duh.

Then with the stunning stupidity of a Very Serious Person himself, Hiatt proceeds to claim Obama could have done the right thing economically and implement Bowles-Simpson to be politically vindicated as well because ... well, you know, the economy would have improved so much by now ...

We're waiting for Fred Hiatt's next column on all those conservative politicans who campaigned on the promise of falling on their sword in order to do the right thing and sacrifice re-election, but somehow never did due to an ongoing "crisis" that called for their expertise in a time of need.
It is the Catfood Commisison
written by ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©, April 22, 2014 9:31

And Fred Hiatt, of course, is not just VSP. He is the WANKER OF THE DECADE - 1st Runner Up.
written by djb, April 22, 2014 9:35

fred hiatt understand that we are crippled by the inability to supply enough goods and services because the government is spending too much

not on programs to help the rich, that spending is a good thing

but spending too on programs to help the poor and middle class

besides he is an editor and as such he is possessed of special intellectual powers beyond us normal humans

we should kiss his ass, and mow his lawn, and be forever grateful for his existence

There's a reason...
written by Richard, April 22, 2014 9:37
he is often known in some circles as "Fact Free Fred Hiatt"
Link to Fred's WOTD, 1st Runner Up title
written by ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©, April 22, 2014 10:27

Hiatt (and his deputy editor Jackson Diehl) is an enormous stain on the reputation of the WaPo.
It Never Ends
written by Larry Signor, April 22, 2014 10:51
These jerks must be encircled by sycophants, else why would they be so out of touch? Talking to or about these people is like talking to or about a rock. Not much there.
Yeah, not really
written by jcc2455, April 22, 2014 2:42
Hiatt is a fool, of course. And the Catfood Commission chairs are the usual class soldiers who feel oh so bad about the necessity for them to inflict pain.

But don't kid yourself and your readers, either. The recent CBO projections include all policy changes through March 2014. On April 8, the Administration announced that it's rescinding the cuts to Medicare Advantage that cost the taxpayer an unnecessary $34.5 billion in 2012 alone. Project that out over ten years, and it's just not close. Medicare Advantage overpayment is one of the great bipartisan corporate welfare boondoggles of all time.

Because no subsidy to the insurance industry is ever enough.

Not, by the way, that we shouldn't fully fund Medicare, but my efficiency vs. your cuts is always a losing game because it's not about facts for these people.
written by Avedon, April 22, 2014 10:21
Why call it a report at all? It was a letter from Bowles and Simpson, nothing more. "report" implies that they were reporting something more than their own opinions, and they were not.
Family Policies v Wage Gap
written by Duckman GR , April 22, 2014 11:10
Let's see if I understand this correctly. Hiatt thinks that there are "Family Policies" that can address the billions and millions that the 1 % are bagging at everybody else's expense?

What is a "Family Policy" exactly? One Child Policy, that's a Family Policy, but I don't think it's going to get me a bigger salary is it? Lock Grandma in a closet in the basement and cash her SS checks, that's a family policy, but SS doesn't pay that well, and then there's the complaints from the neighbors...

I guess I'm trippin on the Family Policy bit, what is that exactly Fred? Because I don't see anything that's going to break the self perpetuating cycle of corporate welfare and corporate speech and lobbying and campaign contributions more than I make in 10 years that can be fixed by something that we get served sitting around the kitchen table making the real hard decisions of life that people like you, Fred, just don't have to make.

Family Policies. Really. Hmm, how bout that. Really.

Write comment

(Only one link allowed per comment)

This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comments.


Support this blog, donate
Combined Federal Campaign #79613

About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.