Obama Backs The Fiscal Commission, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 12 2011 @ 3:10pm

Ed Morrissey asks:

If Obama thinks that Simpson-Bowles was so terrific, why did he round-file it two months ago and issue a budget request that almost entirely refuted it?  And why should anyone believe he’d stick with the cuts Simpson-Bowles demands after giving it that vote of no confidence in February?

Well: duh. This move confirms the view that the president's decision not to go there in his State of the Union or budget was tactical, not strategic. He waited for Ryan to over-reach, forcing Americans to confront a deficit reduction package that seemed absurdly taxophobic and thereby too tough on the needy. Now, he can embrace the gist of the sanest proposal out there – which he never opposed, merely ignored. Paul Krugman, naturally, is depressed by the news:

Bowles-Simpson was a really bad proposal. Its cost-containment plan for Medicare was nothing but a magic asterisk; it proposed raising the retirement age without giving any consideration to the fact that life expectancy hasn’t risen much among lower-income Americans; it arbitrarily set a cap on revenues as a share of GDP. And by endorsing an already right-leaning document, Obama will of course define the center as being somewhere between the right and the far right.

Ryan Avent is less critical of Simpson-Bowles but doesn't expect a deal:

Maybe the Ryan plan will rally moderate leaders behind the Simpson-Bowles bipartisan commission plan, thereby making a meaningful deal on long-term borrowing possible. I have to say that I'm quite sceptical. A compromise position between the Simpson-Bowles plan and the Ryan plan will be well to the right of what most Democratic legislators can tolerate. And for now, at least, it appears that any plan which raises taxes is well to the left of what most Republican legislators can tolerate. 

Which is why, if Obama pulls it off, it will be a game-changer. And in the nick of time. Cohn remains uneasy:

[T]he Post story doesn't say how specific or meaningful Obama's embrace of Bowles-Simpson will be. It's possible Obama will simply point to the commission's work as one possible alternative to the proposal from House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, who has called for ending Medicare and Medicaid as we know it while extending massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. The Post also reports that Obama will highlight the ongoing negotiations among six bipartisan senators, which suggests Bowles-Simpson won't be the only option he cites. But even a modest, qualified endorsement of Bowles-Simpson is risky, because it could launch the debate over deficit reduction onto a dangerous path.

What Jon means by this is the 21 percent of GDP limit for federal government spending. I do not think that under-targeting federal spending has been our problem these last few years.