Liberals, Tea Party Seem United In Ire For Debt Commission Proposal
The immediate reactions from left and right to the proposals from the Chairmen of the Debt Commission are about what you'd expect.
Not unexpectedly, the draft proposal put forward Wednesday by the Chairmen of the Debt Commission is drawing fire from both the left and the right:
By putting deep spending cuts and substantial tax increases on the table, President Obama’s bipartisan debt-reduction commission has exposed fissures in both parties, underscoring the volatile nature and long odds of any attempt to address the nation’s long-term budget problems.
Among Democrats, liberals are in near revolt against the White House over the issue, even as substantive and political forces push Mr. Obama to attack chronic deficits in a serious way. At the same time, Republicans face intense pressure from their conservative base and the Tea Party movement to reject any deal that includes tax increases, leaving their leaders with little room to maneuver in any negotiation and at risk of being blamed by voters for not doing their part.
The liberals are already frustrated with the White House on issues like the Afghanistan war and what to do about the Bush-era tax cuts, which expire Dec. 31, and are increasingly uncertain about Mr. Obama’s willingness to fight for long-held party priorities. That question loomed over a meeting at the White House on Thursday between progressive activists and administration aides about strategy for dealing with the Bush tax cuts in the Congressional lame-duck session that begins next week.
Several activists who attended said in interviews that they sought reassurance after a report Thursday suggesting that the White House was prepared to acquiesce in extending the tax cuts for income above $250,000, as Republicans have demanded.
While David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior strategist, subsequently denied that the White House position had shifted, the immediate suspicion among liberals that the administration was abandoning them reflected broader insecurity among the president’s allies on the left that he would move to center for the rest of his term.
On the right, meanwhile, anti-tax and Tea Party groups are objecting to the fact that the plan would lead to increased taxes:
The Web site of Americans for Tax Reform, which is led by the influential antitax activist Grover Norquist, warned Republicans bluntly, “Support for the commission chair plan would be a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which over 235 congressmen and 41 senators have made to their constituents.”
Republicans would also be looking over their shoulders at the growing ranks of the Tea Party. Ryan Hecker, from the Houston chapter, said it would be “a big mistake” for Republicans to go along with tax increases. “I think that is something that would not sit well with members of the Tea Party,” he said.
Emboldened by their victories, Tea Party members are mobilizing for 2012 to work against any Republican who shows signs of compromising. Among Republicans who may well face rivals in the 2012 party primaries are Senators Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Richard Lugar of Indiana and Orrin G. Hatch of Utah.
Mr. Lugar, who began his long Senate career as indisputably conservative but is now seen by many as a moderate as the party has turned further right, said the Tea Party was no “irresponsible fringe” in an essay this week for a publication of the Ripon Society, a moderate Republican group. But, he added, Republicans must not reflexively oppose everything Democrats propose.
“Opposing unsound administration policies remains important,” Mr. Lugar wrote, adding, “But simple, unadorned ‘opposition’ is mistaken, from both the policy and political perspectives.”
This is precisely the reaction I anticipated when I wrote about this draft report on Wednesday.
Is it possible that some of the ideas that Erskine and Simpson have included in their report can be improved on? Most likely yes. Personally, I think their plan isn’t ambitious enough and takes far too long to bring the debt under control, but that’s only one possible criticism of it. Rather than attacking the proposal, one would have hoped that we’d see people come up with substantive criticisms and alternative ideas. I have no expectations that whatever ends up coming out of the Debt Commission will become anything other than fodder for the talking heads on MSNBC and Fox, both of whom are likely to find more than enough to complain about.
Not everyone is being a demagouge, though. Witness these comments from Senator Kent Conrad:
The Senate’s top Democrat on budgetary issues said that colleagues should be willing to “sacrifice” their political careers in order to get the U.S. on a better fiscal path.
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said that bringing down deficits and debt would require tough choices like the ones proposed on Wednesday by the leaders of President Obama’s fiscal commission, recommendations that have already been met with a chilly reception.
“There is no way of doing it that’s not controversial or difficult,” Conrad said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” of the panel’s recommendations. “If some of us have to sacrifice a political career to get this country back on track, then so be it.”
This is the kind of adult response I was referring to on Wednesday. Unfortunately, I think that Senators like Conrad, and Richard Lugar as his quote above demonstrates, are in the minority today.
Update: Over at Hot Air Jazz Shaw steps up to the plate and hits one out of the park:
It seems to me that this is the opportunity for those claiming to care about our fiscal future to wo/man up. It’s time, as others have less artfully phrased it, to put on the man pants. (Or woman’s pant suits? This analogy is going down faster than Obama’s approval ratings.) The point is, we don’t have to accept every line item of this proposal without proper debate and adjustment, but the rudimentary formula seems to be in place. Somebody is going to have to take the political risk of fixing the entitlement system and refreshing the tax code.
Sacrifices are going to have to be made, and they’re going to hit all of us to some degree or another. If you envision an America of a more socialist nature, you’re going to have to admit that somebody has to pay for the required corrections. The most die hard capitalists will need to acknowledge that everyone, at every level of wealth, will have to pitch in to fix this. And in the end, the fault lies with all of us. You voted for the people who got us into this mess. (And if you didn’t vote, then you chose to let the rest of us choose for you, so sit down and shut up.) We’re all going to have to pay to fix this, but it’s better to swallow some strong medicine today then allow it to turn into a fatal overdose for the next generation.
I’d like to think that there are a majority of Americans who basically agree with this. The problem is that the politicians, the pundits, and the loudest voices are largely immature blowhards who would rather demagogue than discuss.