Friday, November 12, 2010

Krugman on the Bowles/Simpson Report...

Yes, as we hoped and expected, Paul Krugman’s NYTimes’s Friday column concerned the recommendations from the Debt Commission’s co-chairs, Erskine Bowles and Alan Cranston.  He titled his column, “The Hijacked Commission.”  He began his essay with:  [Here]
Count me among those who always believed that President Obama made a big mistake when he created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform — a supposedly bipartisan panel charged with coming up with solutions to the nation’s long-run fiscal problems.  It seemed obvious, as soon as the commission’s membership was announced, that 'bipartisanship' would mean what it so often does in Washington: a compromise between the center-right and the hard-right.
Krugman, bless him, went on to remind us of some recent history: [Here]
My misgivings increased as we got a better feel for the views of the commission’s co-chairmen.  It soon became clear that Erskine Bowles, the Democratic co-chairman, had a very Republican-sounding small-government agenda.  Meanwhile, Alan Simpson, the Republican co-chairman, revealed the kind of honest broker he is by sending an abusive e-mail to the executive director of the National Older Women’s League in which he described Social Security as being ‘like a milk cow with 310 million tits.’ 
It’s important to be reminded of that classic Simpson sexist sneer that he made last August in an email.  (Yes, he actually wrote it.)  There was a chorus of outrage across the country with calls for the president to replace Simpson on the commission, but, of course, it didn’t happen.  I recalled his insulting mouth when I saw a recent tape of Simpson introducing the co-chairs' proposals to the press.  He summed up the group’s work with, “We have harpooned every whale in the ocean and some of the minnows.”[Here]
Right, Alan.  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.  We just love those dead whale jokes.
Krugman also points out that, in the Bowles/Simpson section on tax reform, the chairmen list 7 points, starting with “lower (tax) Rates”  and ending with “Reduce the Deficit.”  As our guide comments: [Here]
So how, exactly, did a deficit-cutting commission become a commission whose first priority is cutting tax rates, with deficit reduction literally at the bottom of the list?
Actually, though, what the co-chairmen are proposing is a mixture of tax cuts and tax increases — tax cuts for the wealthy, tax increases for the middle class.  They suggest eliminating tax breaks that, whatever you think of them, matter a lot to middle-class Americans — the deductibility of health benefits and mortgage interest — and using much of the revenue gained thereby, not to reduce the deficit, but to allow sharp reductions in both the top marginal tax rate and in the corporate tax rate.
Krugman also tackled the Bowles/Simpson suggestions about delaying Social Security payments to reflect increasing life expectancy rates.  He points out, though, that it is the high income earners whose life expectancy is rising, not the folks who are doing manual labor, precisely the people who depend on Social Security payments in their physically-declining years.
Krugman concludes that this commission “should be told to fold its tent and go away.”
Obama opened the door to these folks and should slam it as quickly as he can.  
By the way, is he back in this country, yet?
Whale-of-a-trip, Barry...

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