Simpson-Bowles: Of bitter pills and strong medicine
posted at 2:00 pm on November 13, 2010 by Jazz Shaw
By now most of you should have had an opportunity to look over the proposals from the co-chairs of President Obama’s Fiscal Responsibility Commission which aim to cut the deficit, reduce spending and plaster up some cracks in the entitlement system. While the soon-to-be-exiting-stage-left Speaker of the House pronounced it “unacceptable” (as Allahpundit noted) before she could have possibly found time to read it, I was more in the Shocked and Awed camp, with Fred Thompson. (For a thoughtful, well-written analysis of the proposal, check out Charles Blahous’ study on the subject.)
The proposal is hardly perfect, and no sane person would have expected it to be. But it has the promising attribute of ticking off pretty much everyone, as I have long predicted any real solution would do.
Some of the more strident voices on the left broke out in initial howls of “hot rage” and rending of clothing before settling down to seethe with simmering hatred. After all, the proposed plan not only reduced taxes for those evil corporations who are trying to destroy the world, but it had the temerity to mess with Social Security. And after all, as we all know, any attempt to add some sustainability to the bloated, groaning entitlement system is clearly the exact same thing as telling America’s workers to drop dead and yet another example of nefarious Republicans’ communal desire to club senior citizens like baby harp seals.
But the pain wasn’t restricted to the Left. There are some bitter pills for doctrinaire fiscal conservatives to swallow as well. While the corporate tax rate may go down, the effective capital gains rate would go up – at least for a while. Many tax deductions which affect earners across the board would disappear as the tax code – desperately in need of reform – gets stripped down a bit. And higher earners would find themselves paying into the Social Security system on a larger percentage of their incomes.
But that’s really the type of formula we should have expected. To right a ship which is floundering this badly, some pain and sacrifice will be required all across the board. I still recall a debate I had with our host, Ed Morrissey, during the run up to the 2008 elections. We were discussing some of the more “radical” proposals of Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, and Ed told me that, “nobody ever got elected arguing for an austerity platform.”
But that’s pretty much what this is, albeit a rather mild one. The question is, what will become of it? We just finished electing roughly five dozen new members of Congress, each of which ran on a promise to cut spending and enact tough fiscal reform. Now Masseurs Simpson and Bowles have served up low, hanging strike to the outside corner.
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.
Election 2010 was focused on jobs, but also on fixing the economy. The voting is over and the new members are on their way to DC to be sworn in. It’s time to get to work, and we never promised you it would be easy.
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