Simpson-Bowles Will Not Save Us

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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40 Responses

  1. Ethan Gach says:

    Yup, yup, and yup. A simple and concise refutation. Well done Elias.Report

  2. Jason Kuznicki says:

    Just one poll? I’m not so sure. It’s looking more and more like Romney managed to turn everything on its head in that debate, and now he’s the man to beat. Calling Andrew Sullivan excitable isn’t going to cut it.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      He actually did react that way to just the one poll, whatever subsequent polls say. Elias isn’t making a claim about where the race really stands now; he’s doing an assessment of what actually moves Andrew Sullivan.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        (And then he (Elias) is also doing a personal assessment of the persuasiveness of the political case Sullivan makes for his policy talisman vis-a-vis the fortunes of Sulivan’s political crush of the moment – but also of the latter’s Party [Of which [Nor Clique] Sullivan is Not.])Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Sully flipped crazy before any polls came out. And a single poll was confirmation that his crazy-flip was justified. And then he spiraled downward, to a place where dreams of hope and change lay smashed in pieces on the ground.

        It’s interesting that a guy who is still a 3-4:1 underdog to win the election is now considered the “man to beat”.

        But maybe that’s right. What the hell do I know?Report

  3. Roger says:

    By “save us” I assumed you were writing about us… That is about saving the economy or something. But when I read it, I think “us” really means the democratic controls of the ship.Report

  4. North says:

    Elias, the basic premise of Simpson-Bowles strikes me as sound. A commitment to medium to long term fiscal discipline through both revenue increases and spending cuts coupled with short term boosts for the economy makes sense. The economy gets shepherded along and the bond markets are reassured. Strikes both correct notes to me. Also a bit of seriousness on the Dem side with regards to the principles of deficit refuction wouldn’t do any harm and a rhetorical embrace of Simpson-Bowles would help with that a lot. It would certainly contrast favorably with the all spending cut imaginary policies that the Ryan wing touts which is why Mitt went scuttling towards it as soon as he shed his severely conservative skin at the debate.Report

    • Dan Miller in reply to North says:

      Seriousness regarding deficit reduction? Which party imposed pay-as-you-go rules as soon as they took over Congress? Which party put unpopular provisions in its health care plan just so that it would reduce the budget deficit (and which put Medicare Part D on the credit card)? Which party passed a massive unfunded tax cut in 2001? If the Dems haven’t established seriousness over the past two decades, then nothing will serve to convince those who doubt them.Report

      • North in reply to Dan Miller says:

        You’re preaching to the choir Dan but you gotta admit the Dems are coming from behind when it comes to claiming the mantle of fiscal probity. Yes the GOP has utterly crapped their pants on the subject but this isn’t a subject where the other guy doing it worse makes our guys the default winners. In order to refute the fairytales the GOP is spinning and claiming as a solution a sensible alternative has to be presented. Sullivan’s position is that Simpson-Bowles spells out the broad outlines of such an alternative and that Obama screwed the pooch by orphaning it. I generally agree there.Report

        • Dan Miller in reply to North says:

          “In order to refute the fairytales the GOP is spinning and claiming as a solution a sensible alternative has to be presented. ”

          I’m just not sure that’s true. After all, the Dems have been the responsible grownups for 20 years now, with mixed results politically. I’m often a bad judge of what will prove appealing to the public, but if responsibility as a tactic hasn’t worked yet, I think it never will (this is distinct from arguments for deficit reduction on policy grounds).Report

          • North in reply to Dan Miller says:

            Yes, on political grounds alone offering nothing but icecream plays best in the short term but there is a constituency that wants to hear some adult noises about long term solutions to the Federal fisc and ignoring them in favor of an all icecream mantra cedes the arguement to the GOP. Fake seriousness beats no seriousness and sooner or later the debt issue is actually going to become an immediate one and when that happens do we really want Ryan style imaginary numbers to be the only arguement standing in the room?Report

          • James K in reply to Dan Miller says:

            At some point the politics of it will stop mattering. You will notice that in Greece, Italy and Spain austerity is both unpopular and happening anyway, and the reason is they’ve reached the point where fiscal reality trumps the will of the people.

            The US is still a long way from that point, but it would a really good idea to head that problem off now, or things could get decidedly messy.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to James K says:

              From what I understand, Greece wouldn’t have to go through austerity if Germany would give them more money.Report

            • Shazbot3 in reply to James K says:

              “austerity is both unpopular and happening anyway”

              This is partially caused by Greece not having its own currency. They would have more control of their situation, if they hadn’t given up their sovereign currency.

              There’s not much doubt Greece would’ve had a somewhat nasty recession without the Euro, and would go through some pain to recover (probably some painful currency devaluation, leading to increased exports, leading to growth, leading to recovery) but a lot of the problems we’re seeing in Europe is caused by the insane fiscal union they came up with, which isn’t the case in the U.S.Report

              • James K in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                There’s no question that having your own currency helps in giving you options to clean up the mess, but New Zealand had the same problem in the early 1980s and we had our own currency. And the Euro is not the root cause which is spending persistently more than you take in.Report

              • North in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                Canada also had the same problem NZ about a decade later. Your own currency helps, being the worlds reserve currency helps more, being the least worst major economy in a global depression helps a ~lot~ more but all of these things merely delay the reckoning (and the further it’s delayed the worse it’ll be).Report

              • Jaybird in reply to North says:

                all of these things merely delay the reckoning (and the further it’s delayed the worse it’ll be)

                This is one of those points that people never really understand. If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s not bad… right?

                Let’s say that Greece dropped out of the Euro back when the crisis first started. How much better off would *ALL* of the players be?Report

    • Elias Isquith in reply to North says:

      If S-B had put 1/2 as much effort into finding money in the financial sector as they did in Social Security — or as they did towards lowering top-rate marginal taxes — I’d be a lot more inclined to kind of defend it. It’s not as bad as it could have been (or as austerity will eventually be under a GOP POTUS) but it’s still pretty bad.Report

      • Liberty60 in reply to Elias Isquith says:

        Because those who made up S-B were of the investor class, not the working class.

        They honestly think that investing is more productive, more noble and worth incentivizing than labor and consumer spending.Report

      • North in reply to Elias Isquith says:

        That’s a fair criticism, but as I recall total tax reform was one of the provisions that S-B proposed. That could potentially have been turned out to be quite progressive had the entire process not been strangled by the GOP in the cradle and then orphaned by Obama. I still think it was a missed opportunity.Report

  5. George Turner says:

    Well, at least this time Sully isn’t pushing the theory that Bo is actually Sasha’s dog, not Michelle’s.Report

  6. Koz says:

    There’s a fundamental time-disconnect premise in Elias’ argument. The time to do S-B isn’t now, it was two years ago. If we had been in a different world where the Democrats didn’t fail to move the ball on S-B or something similar, we might not be on this weak employment-growth path that the Demo’s have inflicted on us.

    And for that matter, even if we were, the Demo’s would have a lot more plausble deniability on that score than they do now.

    S-B wouldn’t do anything for the Demo’s now, even if they decided that they support it. What they need now is a debate win or two. Considering they’re lining up with the short end on intellect, accomplishment and desire to win, I don’t like their chances there either.Report

    • North in reply to Koz says:

      There’s a lot of disconnects going on here. For instance S-B was scuttled, as I recall, by some GOP nay votes. I recall a certain GOP VP candidate who was a very prominant nay vote.

      Though I don’t see how S-B would have changed employment much, after all austerity damages short term economic growth. That’s certainly the GOP line on the defense cuts that they’re so upset about; it’ll cost jobs.Report

  7. Kolohe says:

    How the fish are people as concerned about Iran as Afghanistan? Well, at least most people don’t give a fig about gay marriage or birth control. (though gun control is suprisingly high – and that it’s up there with Iran & Afghanistan is another OFFS).Report

  8. b-psycho says:

    Sometimes I wonder what rates would be necessary to approach halfway balance (that is, approaching covering half the distance between what revenue is obtained now & what revenue would actually be required to pay for the shit “we” expect, with the rest of the distance made up by a combo of structural reforms & outright spending cuts) were the entire tax code to be scrapped in favor of a combination of quasi-Georgist resource taxation & Pigovian taxation of finance transactions.Report

  9. damon says:

    S-B, as has been mentioned above, gores too many oxes. Reminds me of the scene in Blazing Saddles, “gentlemen, we must preserve our phony baloney jobs”. Our society has passed the tipping point. When you incentivize people, you get what you pay for. We’ve incentivized people to lobby politicians for subsidies, consequently, EVERYONE gets one. Even if there was a real desire to change things, there are too many people feeding in the trough of gov’t subsidies, in one form or another, to allow real change. As a result, you get a “kick the can” mentality. We’ve seen with the PIGS that that will eventually come to an end. But the rub is HOW it will come to an end here. I’m thinking default.Report

  10. KatherineMW says:

    Considering S-B advocates cuts to Social Security and Medicare, as well as the reducing the cap on the extremely popular home-mortgage interest deduction, closing sundry loopholes, and reducing spending on the military-industrial complex, it’s fair to say S-B won’t be a favorite of populists in either party.

    The second and the last are extremely strong points in its favour. They won’t help electorally, true, and endorsing them at this point in the election would not be a good political move, but they’re definitely solid policy.

    There’s no justification for incentivizing people to borrow more money for more expensive housing in circumstances where an overinflated housing market and excessive debt has just caused an economic crisis.Report

  11. DavidTC says:

    Whoa whoa whoa. Let’s be careful here.

    Simpson-Bowles does not have _anything_ in it, because that commission (National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform) did not actually return. That commission was set up to require a supermajority, and did not get it, and thus, strictly speaking, failed to make any recommendations _at all_. It is not correct to refer to anything as the product of that commission, or by the name of that commission.

    Now, there was a draft proposal that the committee can up with that got a _majority_ (But not the required supermajority), and it is entirely reasonable for some of the Congresspeople who supported it in the commission (Or even random others) to make legislation based on it. People are free to take failed results and use them as the basic for legislation if they want, no one has a problem with that.

    But that doesn’t mean that hypothetical bill is ‘Simpson-Bowles’. (Not that such a bill appears even to exist!)

    Also, it is somewhat confusing to blame the Dems for not doing anything with this draft proposal. The commission failed to return a recommendations in Dec 2010…and last I checked starting a budgetary bill was the job of the House, and the House has, duh, been controlled by Republicans since 2011. Yes, granted, the Democrats had half of a lame duck session before 2011 they could have done it in, but that is just a little silly, and seems to assume a few proposals can turn into actual legislation a lot faster than it can.Report