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Opinion: Are Both Parties Headed Toward Fiscal Sanity?

Monday, September 10, 2012 - 09:25 AM

The National Debt Clock, around April 15th, 2010 (Mellydoll/flickr)

It's fitting that the first song that came up on Spotify when I finally was able to have some time alone to process and recharge from the insanity of the RNC and DNC was 'Shake it Out' by Florence + The Machine.

After going into the belly of the beasts, the national conventions of the Democrats and Republicans, the last two weeks... I'm homesick. Not just homesick for Omaha, my bed, girlfriend, cats and all that comes with those things, but homesick for a regular day that doesn't involve being up to my eyeballs in overproduced reality television, which really is all that the conventions are. Just sitting here with my ear buds blasting, my laptop in front of me and coffee to sip on in peace is my way of starting to shake off the stress and (figurative) stink.

There wasn't as much drama at the Democratic convention in Charlotte as there was at the Republican in Tampa. The Green Party types, that are the closest segment on the left that compares to Ron Paul's slice of the Republican party, haven't made inroads inside the Democratic small tent as much. Jill Stein, the closest thing team Obama has to Paul, and the Occupy Charlotte protesters were relegated to areas far far from the floor of the Democratic convention... which is odd seeing as those a bunch of nutters with five foot tall magnified pictures of aborted fetuses were allowed to camp out right in front of the convention for long periods of time.

But the most notable thing I picked up on, after catching maybe half of the major speeches over the last couple of weeks, was how both parties are positioning themselves to vote for the Simpson-Bowles fiscal plan.

As is typical, the three day long coronations of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney was a mix of ignoring the weaknesses in their own records, rallying the base with snarky rhetoric, a healthy dose of hyperbole, some outright falsehoods and highlighting the parts of their planks that play well in the polls and focus groups. I did hear something at both conventions that gives me hope about being able to avoid this fast approaching 'fiscal cliff', and get our government headed in a more fiscally sane direction.

Another line from the excellent song I mentioned at the outset of this post repeats the old saying, "it's always darkest before dawn." This is exactly what I hope we're seeing here. If our government is allowed to drive over the aforementioned 'fiscal cliff', it's likely that our economy will slip right back into recession. Certainly a dark picture.

Again we're facing a disaster, and the jokers inside the beltway, now on their way back to the home stretch of the campaign trail, finally seem to be peaking out from the holes in the sand that they've stuck their heads into enough to realize that the best option available to us has been staring them in the face for over a year and a half.

The Democrats verbally wrote a fairy tale that it was the Republicans that kept Simpson-Bowles from passing, while conveniently ignoring that Obama sank it from the start by requiring 14 of 18 commissioners vote on the recommendations being sent to Congress, a ridiculous and virtually impossible super-majority-and-then-some. Outside the bubble in Charlotte and DC, talking heads across the left are again trotting out the garbage that that Simpson-Bowles amounts to austerity.

Back in reality, for those who've actually read the recommendations, it amounts to short term stimulus, coupled with slowly phased in cuts and measures to slow the growth of entitlement spending and more revenue - largely through slashing tax loopholes. That short term stimulus is just what the economy needs, and unlike so much legislation that has been just sent through time for our kids and grand kids to pay, this actually pays for itself over time, and then some.

The Republicans spun a yarn of their own, conveniently leaving out that their own lead fiscal wonk, Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, was on the commission and voted against the recommendations going to Congress for a vote.

Simpson-Bowles isn't perfect, and it seems to me like both sides want to make it seem like they're the ones that are behind the common sense parts of Simpson-Bowles, likely so they can make the other side look bad and tweak it more to their liking. But all this positive talk of the plan indicates to me that it might actually pass, and put us on that glide path to solvency that we need to get on if we care at all about the economic prospects of the the generations coming up through school now, and make sure that Social Security and Medicare are there for seniors when they need it.

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Comments [4]

Jack

(cont.)

"Who said anything about being a "victimized sensible centrist"? I'm not victimized, and thinking I'm sensible is no different than anyone else at different points of the spectrum thinking their own beliefs make more sense."

I'm calling you out as the victimized centrist, obviously. Your whining about subjecting *yourself* to "overproduced reality television," and needing to cleanse yourself of it is pathetic. Please, quit bitching. And as for 'sensible,' I'm not saying others don't claim it about themselves, I'm saying you have *no actual case for it,* but nonetheless routinely portray yourself this way.

The point is, you're *not* sensible. You're myopic, with a self-distorted view of how American politics actually works. Because you've staked your identity to the "both sides do it" canard, you're now stuck digging that rut deeper, which entails more false equivalence, and more selective omissions, oh, and of course, scary-sounding nonsense terms like "fiscal cliff."

'Fiscal Cliff' is used by a ton of people, and makes perfect sense. If nothing is done to avoid it, it's going to hurt - badly.

You're right, "fiscal cliff" is popular -- popular idiocy. One which you're further propagating. And, hilariously, the most common use of "fiscal cliff," is the exact opposite of what you're saying -- it's the impending deadline when mandatory spending cuts and tax increases go into effect.

This is what happens when you parrot stupid, self-serving, centrist claptrap buzzwords.

Sep. 12 2012 03:14 PM
Jack

You write:

"You're beyond naive if you think 78% - 14 of 18 - is a realistic number. When was the last time we have seen something with any level of controversy have that level of support in Washington without our country facing catastrophe if nothing is done?"

It's not an unrealistic number at all when purposely seeking *BROAD BIPARTISAN CONSENSUS*, as Obama was. Why do you keep missing that salient point?

They were only three votes shy, and some members have said Ryan's nay caused two other Republicans to peel off as well.

To answer your question, the Iraq War vote in 2002 got 77% of the Senate despite the controversy and with no impending catastrophe. Even if we pretend that only a presidential veto-overriding 2/3rds (12 votes) was required to force Obama's hand to support the proposals, they didn't achieve that, so your point is moot regardless -- which begs the question: how much would have been enough for you? Just the 11? Ten Democrats, a lone Republican, then Obama has to convince the filibuster-happy Senate GOP and the Tea Party-heavy Republican House to hold an up or down vote?

Only a person who believes that anything outside of the fanciful center is extreme would think that a 14 of 18 threshold is impossible. And, to repeat myself, Obama didn't even have to assemble the commission at all, particularly after the Senate GOP, some of whom originally sponsored it, voted against its legislative creation and killed it.

You're basically asking Obama to take ALL of the political risks of implementing the agenda of a very divided commission, and having to then sell sweeping changes to American domestic policy as broadly bipartisan to a Congress that is adamantly obstructionist. In short, you just don't understand politics. You enjoy complaining, bemoaning, and hand-wringing, but you just don't get how things work.

"Are you dense, or did you just not read the whole post?"

Yes, I read the whole post, including where you said Paul Ryan omitted his no vote on the Commission. But you DIDN'T call out his rank hypocrisy:

"[Obama] created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing." -- Paul Ryan

You're almost ECHOING what Paul Ryan said, even though it's a lie. Ryan has been attacking Obama for something *HE HIMSELF OPPOSED*. It's not just that Ryan voted against the recommendations, it's that he's actively attacking Barack Obama for not acting on them, despite knowing the RULES of the game going in.

You're either unwilling or unable to put truth to what you observe, because in your paradigm, Ryan and Obama are BOTH just "jokers inside the Beltway," heading to a "fiscal cliff."

It's also why you went out of your way to find some analogue at the DNC to Ron Paul's dissident faction within the RNC, falsely likening the Green Party's Jill Stein to Ron Paul, even though Stein ISN'T a Democrat, while Ron Paul IS a Republican.

Sep. 12 2012 03:09 PM
Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

I get it entirely. Obama made sure that the commission didn't succeed, so he could pretend like he actually did something of substance, and then has let it sit on the shelf ever since, while other people have been doing the work to keep it alive.

You're beyond naive if you think 78% - 14 of 18 - is a realistic number. When was the last time we have seen something with any level of controversy have that level of support in Washington without our country facing catastrophe if nothing is done?

"Paul Ryan's not just uncompromising, he's also a hypocrite, but you're trying to play the false balance "both sides do it" charade by similarly implicating the President, even though the facts don't show that at all."

Are you dense, or did you just not read the whole post? I literally said, right there in the post, that Paul Ryan voted against the commission's recommendations... and that they were also spinning a yarn.

Both sides HAVE gotten in the way of this... if the Democrats were for this, they could have been pushing it the last year and a half. They haven't been. Their lack of action is much louder than your hot air here.

Who said anything about being a "victimized sensible centrist"? I'm not victimized, and thinking I'm sensible is no different than anyone else at different points of the spectrum thinking their own beliefs make more sense.

I'll use whatever terms I think work there chief. 'Fiscal Cliff' is used by a ton of people, and makes perfect sense. If nothing is done to avoid it, it's going to hurt - badly.

Sep. 11 2012 03:30 PM
Jack

You don't seem to get it. The point of the commission was to find *broadly bipartisan* solutions, and the 14 of 18 votes would reflect that bipartisan consensus by requiring at least 4-6 of the other party's members to go along with the other side, or by having solid majorities of *both* parties form the 14 passing votes.

What the hell kind of bipartisan solution would it have been if a simple majority of 10 votes had won the day? That would've allowed the 10 Democrats on the commission to completely ignore the Republicans.

Fourteen votes was not an impossible threshold. As chief executive, Obama has the prerogative to lay out the rules for his own commission which would determine some of his legislative agenda, and such a supermajority threshold by its nature necessitates more of what fanciful, pearl-clutching centrists demand: compromise and consensus. Paul Ryan wasn't elected president in 2008, Barack Obama was.

As such, he could have required that the commission vote be unanimous. Heck, he didn't even have to assemble a commission at all, but he did so when Congress failed to after REPUBLICANS in the Senate voted against it. So even after the GOP had shown that it wasn't going to play ball, Obama *still* assembled a bipartisan commission aimed at finding compromise solutions to the deficit and debt.

But he did, and Paul Ryan *rejected* its proposal by voting no. He can't now criticize the president for not adopting the proposal HE himself voted against.

Paul Ryan's not just uncompromising, he's also a hypocrite, but you're trying to play the false balance "both sides do it" charade by similarly implicating the President, even though the facts don't show that at all.

Stop portraying yourself as some victimized sensible centrist. Nobody subjected you to either convention but yourself. And stop using the baloney term "fiscal cliff," because it's both childish and inaccurate.

Sep. 10 2012 03:50 PM

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