Monday, November 30, 2009

Deficit (Commission) Politics

Matt Yglesias today is back to bashing Evan Bayh and his group of deficit fetishists, as Bayh continues to push for a Deficit Commission.

I like Matt's idea: Bayh should be forced to be chair of his own commission, since the commission is an exercise in ducking responsibility (Bayh doesn't mention what large spending cuts and/or tax increases he himself is in favor of). The important thing to remember is that Bayh's plan is a transparent joke. There's simply no way that a commission that cared only about deficits would avoid tax increases; there's no way that more than a handful of Congressional Republicans in the foreseeable future are going to vote for a package of tax increases and spending cuts similar to those that G.H.W. Bush and Clinton supported in 1989 and 1993; and there's no way that Democrats are going to enact such a commission-authored package with only a handful of GOP votes. (I can imagine a scenario in which Democrats decide, as they did in 1993, to pass a deficit-shrinking combination of tax increases on rich folks and some spending cuts, but they would have to do it alone, and it would have to come from the president, not a neutral commission).

Meanwhile, as far as the commission is concerned, I'll stick with my first answer: give Bayh a commission, set it up so that commission Republicans can block a deal, and make sure that Grover Norquist can choose the Republicans on the commission. So Bayh gets his p.r. hit, and there's no chance at all of anything damaging actually happening.

And I'll also repeat that Bayh is dead wrong when he claims that:
Some of my colleagues in Congress believe that efforts to reduce the deficit should go through the regular committee system, but the national debt has doubled this decade. The existing process has not only failed to respond to this problem, it has made it worse.
The regular committee system worked fine as long as Republicans and Democrats both wanted to reduce the deficit, as both parties did from 1989 through 2000. It worked poorly only when the majority party chose a dessert-only governing strategy in 2001-2006 (the large deficits now are a combination of structural deficits dating from 2001-2006 and short-term deficits run deliberately in reaction to the recession). There's absolutely no evidence that the regular committee process doesn't work.

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