I always thought that the most admirable element of the first Bowles-Simpson plan — whether or not you consider yourself a deficit hawk — was the brutal honesty that fulfilling our promise to medically insure the poor and old, while protecting the working poor, while building better roads and broadband, while paying for a military, while doing everything else we’ve come to expect from the government would require tax increases beyond the top two percent. This plan all but gives up on the idea that balancing the budget requires a roughly equal mix of tax hikes and spending cuts.
Simpson/Bowles were trying to locate a compromise position that is achievable, given political realities. Perhaps that’s understandable; perhaps Dems are even partly to blame for the fact that the “possible” has been pulled so far in the GOP’s direction. But let’s not call this a “middle ground” or “centrist” position. It isn’t one, unless public opinion and the election’s outcome are to be disregarded entirely in the quest to establish it.
Ezra argues along the same lines:
[T]his plan sacrifices the most useful element of the original Simpson-Bowles effort, which was that it created a model — not the only model, of course — for how you might go about reducing the deficit if you weren’t bound by the various promises, interest groups and political constraints of the two parties. This plan, by contrast, is an effort to split the difference between the two parties while amping up the total deficit reduction.
Gleckman is more positive:
It is still early. With a deadline of March 1, the real drama won’t gear up for at least another week. And it isn’t likely many lawmakers will take up the Bowles and Simpson plan yet. But if Congress and Obama ever decide to actually set serious tax and spending priorities, a consensus budget could well end up looking something like what the two men proposed today.
In an interview, Bowles claims that, after the original plan was released, the White House “said we had too much revenue” and that “being far out front of the president on revenues wasn’t something I wanted to do again.”