Listen to the clip here. It’s not that he’s sold on each and every particular, mind you, it’s just that he’s stunned to see any sort of sweeping proposal for entitlement — and tax! — reform emerging from any member of a government body. (Paul Ryan excepted, of course.) I’m thunderstruck too, not by all of the specifics but by the mere fact that someone in a position of authority is trying to force a national debate about meaningful spending cuts. That’s how disgracefully pathetic our political leadership has been in confronting the subject of debt and deficit publicly. Kent Conrad said this morning on GMA that “If some of us have to sacrifice a political career to get this country back on track, then so be it”; not only is that the proper attitude for a civic-minded politician to have, it’s an absolutely necessary one given the inevitability of an electoral backlash to cuts. But until a majority of congressmen have it — if ever they do — we’re stuck with the sort of stalemate that’s already doomed the Bowles/Simpson proposal to fail.
The Journal has a thoughtful run-through of the major provisions in an editorial set to run tomorrow, and while they’re not thrilled with everything either, they’re squarely in the Fred camp of feeling overwhelming relief that serious fiscal solvency measures are now on the national radar. A core criticism of the plan: Not enough cuts, alas.
The draft also proposes spending cuts, albeit far too timidly. Its discretionary spending proposals would take outlays down only to 2010 levels, though Republicans have already promised to take them back to 2008. We wonder if this is a bow to Democrats who think that spending at 25% of GDP should be the new normal…
The chairmen are braver on Social Security, though again not brave enough. They propose to raise the retirement age for receiving full benefits to 68 from 67 by—brace yourself—2050, and 69 by 2075. For context, consider that the average American woman born today will live to be 80.
As you’ll see below, Rush Limbaugh thinks the provisions capping spending at a rate as high as 21 percent of GDP are reason enough to call the plan unacceptable. I wonder if Bowles and Simpson did that as a political sop to the left, to entice them to support the plan, or whether they simply believe that with aging boomers about to explode Social Security and Medicare, a 21 percent cap is the very best you’re likely to do. Exit question: Does that also explain why Madam Speaker is suddenly sounding a bit warmer to the plan today than she did yesterday? Click the image to watch.