Obama's chance to get back in the game
The president has an opportunity to take a liberal stance on reducing the deficit. Will he take it?
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A second, maddening example of the White House allowing the other side to frame the debate involves the longer-term fiscal picture. The president convened a commission on the topic and then abandoned it. First, he did not lift a finger to help his co-chairs, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, assemble the 14 votes necessary to get the commission’s plan a congressional vote. Then, when the plan was released, the president pointedly declined to express a view. He stuck to the vagueness strategy in his State of the Union address and his 2012 budget proposal.Skip to next paragraph
'EconomistMom' (Diane Lim Rogers) is Chief Economist of the Concord Coalition, a non-partisan, non-profit organization which advocates for fiscal responsibility, and the mom of four (amazing) kids to whom she dedicates her work. She’s been blogging since Mother’s Day 2008.
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In the meantime, the void was filled — and the playing field was shifted even further rightward — by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. The Wisconsin Republican unveiled a plan that makes the centrist Simpson-Bowles proposal look as if it were written by Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean.
If the White House had weighed in on Simpson-Bowles before Ryan released his plan, it could have staked out an argument that the framework — a combination of spending cuts and tax increases — was correct but that some specifics (the precise mix of the two, the details of the Social Security fix) went too far in the conservative direction. Now the “reasonable” compromise would [seem to] be between Simpson-Bowles on the leftward side and Ryan on the right…
[T]he administration [has been insisting that] coming forward with a plan of its own would be counterproductive. The history of budget deals, officials argued, was that public presidential proposals get shot down (George W. Bush on Social Security in 2005, for example); successful outcomes are crafted behind the scenes.
Indeed, this was happening in the form of the so-called Gang of Six, the bipartisan group of senators working to write the Simpson-Bowles framework into law. Just as the gang was nearing agreement, the Ryan plan came along, and the White House, rattled by its reception, decided it needed to get into the game…
[But] if the White House was going to support the Simpson-Bowles framework all along, why not do it earlier and take advantage of the momentum?
Back to the sports metaphor, it makes you wonder: Can’t anybody here play this game?