Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Paul Krugman: The Bowles-Simpson Cult

April 4, 2012, 9:08 AM

The Bowles-Simpson Cult

A brief shout-out to Stan Collender, the mild-mannered budget analyst who finally says what must be said: the Very Serious People who keep pushing the Bowles-Simpson deficit plan as some kind of talisman of fiscal responsibility are delusional and deeply unserious:
B-S and some of their biggest supporters then made a huge mistake when they expressed surprise and extreme disappointment that the Obama administration didn’t make the co-chairs’ recommendation the basis of its fiscal 2012 budget, that is, the first one it submitted after the commission ended.

That demonstrated a level of political tone deafness that seriously hurt the credibility of what had now become a B-S cult. They were seriously suggesting that the Obama White House unilaterally support the tax increases and spending cuts included in the two co-chairs’ plan even though it was virtually guaranteed that the GOP would never agree to do the same and would punish Democrats for doing so.


Share your thoughts.
    • martin weiss
    • mexico, mo
    • Verified
    Hemingway said that to write well one needs a: "built-in B.S. detector". He evidently hadn't read General Smedley Butler: "War is a Racket", or predicted the fascist takeover of America. The GOP is an addict in denial. They will say anything to get more lucre. When the GOP candidate repeatedly fires workers and throws pension obligations on taxpayers, B.S. is the M.O.
      • h2oclerk
      • Jacksonville, Florida
      Obama only knows one thing - his social ideology - and nothing else. On economics and business issues, he is a complete imbecile and worse - he doesn't want to know any better. And when it comes to Consitutional matters, he is an absolute extreme activist. He openly lamented before his election about being restrained by the Constitution. His solution? Just ignore it.

      Perhaps when Obama and Democrats actually present a budget or economic plan, then they other ideologues like Krugman will have a right to criticize the others who do. Of course, their opinions will be likely be worthless.
        • Bill K
        • Dallas, Tx
        Yes. We are ruled by fanatical cultists. I'm glad I'm not the only one to flat-out say that.






        Before they get us all killed.
          • Banicki
          • Michigan
          Why would this hurt the Democrats? They should know that in the end there would need to be some cuts to entitlement, just as they should demand tax increase for the wealthy. We need both Yes there will be democrats upset with the truth, but so be it. It would be refreshing if one side were truthful.

          Stimulate, export, cut deficit and military and restore equality are all related..

          We are in the fourth year of a Great Recession that could have been a depression. The end is still not in sight. The net worth of all Americans was affected negatively, as has their optimism and willingness to go on spending binges as they have over the last several decades. To make the recovery happen, part of the answer is to stimulate our economy by investing in our future including infrastructure, education and the internet.

          Our ability to presently stimulate is somewhat limited by the debt burden our country is currently carrying as depicted by the chart below. If we cannot show how we can afford to stimulate now and implement a debt reduction plan in the near future, we could be facing the same problems as Greece, Spain and Portugal. Read More:
            • Anthony Lima
            • San Jose, CA
            As if it even matters what budget plan the federal government winds up adopting. Any plan is going to be similar to any other plan regardless of origin. It is a political battle of labels not a serious discussion of what the federal governments duties should be.
              • Dem Voter
              • Dallas, TX
              It wouldn't surprise me at all to see the B-S plan put into effect regardless of who is elected president or which party controls congress. And it won't be 90 days later that the Republicans begin proposing ways to renege on the parts of the plan that cut defense spending.
            • Avraam Jack Dectis
            • undefined

            You just wanted to find a way to say BS in the Times.

              • Pelle
              • Sweden
              An american commentator may rightly concentrate on american politics but for an outsider it seems of little interest as policy will probably be formed as a reaction to imminent economic and political forces outside the rethoric. Its very quiet this days on international economic and political development among economists maybe depending on fatigue.The european problems with EMU are not solved, China has inherent problems with the development strategy, Japan, Russia, India, Syriah, Iran, Pakistan pose problems both economically and politically. The welthfare distribution in the USA, the value of the currency,.trade imbalances, the US and international financial institutions and globalisation must be part of the problem and as well affected by the multi causal both way connections. The goldstandards during the thirties and the depression paved the wayfor WW2 and as well for the modern welfare state implemented in Europe and the USA and then partly dismantled during the last 30 years. How will the broader political and economic world impact on internal US sentiments and understanding and influence the public and political community the following decade? Isn't it probable that the current political and economic practise will end overwhelmed by competitive problems, welfare problems, moral problems and rising political movements from below?
                • IowaJack
                • Iowa
                Often, a person or a population, cannot comprehend the consequences or historical implications of events happening in the present.

                As a person who enjoys contemplating the future, I used to encounter such resistance from people who insisted the personal computer would not be widely adopted and change how we accomplish literally everything.

                Fans of James Burke would point out that the advance of human civilization is based on information. Technology to share information is the driving force accelerating advances gained through the advent of the printing press, telegraphy, telephony, radio and television. These advances have increased pressure on governing systems to change, and have caused change around the world.

                What is happening now in information exchange is difficult to see and very hard for older people to grasp. It may be called social media, Facebook, or Twitter, whatever. National borders and language barriers are dissolving, permitting a global conversation about how we humans are to be governed and to share the world's resources/wealth.

                History will likely show this period as the point of greatest change in world-wide institutions involved in meeting all human needs.
              • Brett
              • Houston
              Mr. Krugman, I hope you'll take note that Ezra Klein is now a certified member of the establishment DC press corps, as he is a proponent of Bowles-Simpson

              Deeply Serious.
                • atworkforu
                • san diego
                For me personally the horrible part of all this "bipartisan" nonsense is the "base broadening". Basically they try to cut the big tax deductions like mortgage interest and employer health plans and use the money to drop marginal rates, mostly on the rich.

                It would be a huge tax increase on the middle class. I could stomach it for deficit reduction or infrastructure or programs for the truly unfortunate. To raise my taxes, when I haven't had a real raise in 10 years to fund the bankers and mangers that looted the economy is total nonsense.
                  • Maria
                  • Michigan
                  Perhaps B-S would like to take a little trip to Europe which is more B-S friendly than the US. B-S can pick one of those countries ruled by a Very Serious Technocrat. Leaders who are unelected don't have to worry about political consequences. That's an ideal environment for the Very Serious People.
                    • One chance
                    • everywhere
                    I have a question for you - do you feel that things have changed enough in terms of the national dialog for a larger base to assert an understanding in a way they have not before?
                      • bud unanski
                      • holmdel, nj
                      Well Paul, your "opinion" is not unexpected. I watched the Charlie Rose show featuring Senators Simpson and Bowles. They and their bipartisan committee members who you are quite familiar with have come up with a reasonable approach to our financial woes of which there are many and pressing. This committee was set up by non other than Barack Obama! He and the rest of the left-wing lunatics have chosen to completey ignore it!!! And do NOTHING! This alone qualifies him for removal from office. Simpson/Bowles scared the hell out of me. We are running out of time and the Dems want to kick the can down the road??? Per S/B, we are now at the point of borrowing 50% of the Federal spending outlays, from CHINA. This cannot go on.
                        • Dem Voter
                        • Dallas, TX
                        If you want to blame someone for B-S not being adopted, talk to the Republicans who control the House. The House is responsible for initiating spending bills. It's apparently not just the Democrats who don't think it's a good plan.

                        P.S. This country is not "borrowing 50% of the Federal spending outlays from CHINA."
                        • tatateeta
                        • San Mateo
                        The B-S Committee never agreed to the B-S plan. They couldn't agree to any plan. This is true BS.
                      • Larry Figdill
                      • Charlottesville, VA
                      It is important to remember that the committee lead by Bowles and Simpson did NOT come to a consensus or agreement on a budget plan. B & S then came up with a plan of their own. I don't know why these two men alone should be trusted with such an enormously important decision, even if they were able to find common ground between the two of them.
                        • pooka zecov
                        • croatia
                        I know I'm off the topic given above... sorry... I remember your 'compassionate conservative' example of dog whistle politics so I think that this:
                        'Let’s start with the already famous exchange in which Justice Antonin Scalia compared the purchase of health insurance to the purchase of broccoli, with the implication that if the government can compel you to do the former, it can also compel you to do the latter.'
                        might have something to do with this:
                        sorry if I'm like the 89th person with a comment like this
                          • poomakmak
                          • tent
                          i did my taxes this am and the govt did away with "making work pay credit" (schedule M). Gee, another 293. i can't spend on something stupid and frivolous.
                            • Vashti4
                            • Lawrence, Kansas
                            I say let the Bush tax cuts expire next January-all of them. Sorry, folks below the median, but the only taxpayers the Republicans are interested in are the rich. I personally don't see any reason to even sit at the table with the Republicans at this point. The only way we can pay for important programs for the bottom of the heap is to bring in enough revenue and the only way to get that revenue is to let the tax cuts die a natural death. Force the Republicans to put something-anything- on the table to get a better tax system.
                            There are lots of things that Congress could do to make this a better country-single payer health care, upgrade infrastructure, alternative energy. etc., but as long as the Republicans are only working for the 1% it ain't gonna happen. I say let the tax cuts die and move on.
                            Simpson-Bowles? Just another austerity scam masquerading as bipartisanship.
                              • Puzzled
                              • Montana
                              A Wyoming Republican politician and a nominally Democratic investment banker from North Carolina make a balanced team? How about a Democratic politician from Massachusetts and a Republican who works for a co-op in San Francisco? That, too, would be a balanced team, that would probably have a different recommendation.
                                • Craig
                                • Oregon
                                Every plan like B-S suffers from a single, fatal flaw. We all know it, and yet we are quite willing to ignore it.

                                The Fatal Flaw is that this plan, regardless of the specifics and regardless of the well-meaning intent of the committee members, represents a Compromise. As we already know, and have been told hundreds of times, the GOP WILL NOT COMPROMISE, so...obviously the plan is/was dead from the moment it existed.

                                However, just as in some State...can't remember which one right now...a dead fetus must be carried to term, inflicting that anguish upon the mother and father involved. Therefore, while B-S is clearly dead, and we all know it, the GOP believes we must continue the charade of the pregnancy. In this case, the normal gestation period is not nine months, but more like that of an Elephant: 19 months. Are we there yet?
                                  • David Johnson
                                  • Greensboro, NC
                                  I too believed that Bowles-Simpson was more B-S. It is true that we have long term deficit problems in this country but they need to be addressed in a balanced and fair way. The first neme we need to discard is the quest for lower tax rates. If anything, our tax system needs to be more progressive. That means we need more brackets with rates that approach 50% or more. We do need to close tax loop holes for all tax payers as a move toward simplification but with an appropriately progressive system low to middle income taxpayers should not see a marked increase in their tax burden. Other features of a fair plan would include an upper limit on reduced capital gains tax rates, an increase or elimination of SS income limits, a medicare for all public option and the establishment of a transaction tax on Wall Street.

                                  This is all a pipe dream as the Republicans will never go along with such a proposal, particularly if President Obama supports it. What a country!
                                    • dlampo
                                    • Alexandria, Virginia
                                    So the Democrats now allow Republicans to veto or shape their own budget plans? That's a phony excuse and a copout. The president didn't support it because he doesn't have the courage or conviction to do so. It's that simple.
                                      • Dem Voter
                                      • Dallas, TX
                                      Maybe the president doesn't agree with it. At any rate, either political party must measure any budget's chances of actually becoming law by understanding what the other party will or won't vote for. Otherwise the argument becomes just another exercise in propaganda.
                                    • jason
                                    • new york
                                    The problem, Paul, is that Obama DID eventually come to Boehner and McConnell with a "grand bargain" that had more spending cuts and less tax increases than S-B! Obama eventually tried something even worse! He would have been better off with what he had from them.
                                      • Cindy
                                      • Baltimore, Md.
                                      For people who still believe these Third Way Democrats are even putting 2 seconds into a thought about doing what's best for the middle-class......wake up! My goodness, democrats have joined republicans to give corporations trillions in tax cuts these three years......they have no plan to make anyone but you and I pay this entire debt down. Democrats have already made hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicare that are making people stop medications and cutting was done last year as Bush tax cuts were continued thanks to the democrats. The $700 billion spending stimulus two years ago billed as a jobs program.....we now know that most of that money went right into business profits...there were some state jobs saved. This jobs bill just passed gave the international corporations what they wanted ......a 5% repatriation tax, superceding the 35% rate for a second time....costing us hundreds of billions in lost revenue.......this was hidden in a jobs bill that no one thinks will create meaningful employment.

                                      The democrats would not be giving all this money to corporations if they expected to protect the middle-class! Please stop with the false hope and get rid of these incumbant Third Way democrats!
                                        • Dem Voter
                                        • Dallas, TX
                                        They're called Blue Dog Democrats, and I'm for getting rid of every one of them.
                                      • Bumpa
                                      • CO
                                      BS...aptly named!
                                        • Jim Pharo
                                        • New York, NY
                                        There's also a process error: the "Simpson Bowles" commission never agreed to anything. It's leaders may have had some ideas they agreed on, but the commission itself never met its own criteria for adopting anything.

                                        So, "Simpson Bowles" as a label is pretty misleading, at least to me. It's not much different than, say, the "Sanders-Brown" recommendations - a couple of smart guys who've thought about it some, but hardly the product of a professional and focused process.
                                          • Iosono4
                                          • Stamford, CT
                                          Please excuse my ignorance but I have two questions:

                                          1. To what extent The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) influence the Bowles Simpson plan?

                                          2. Why aren’t the Democrats and in particular the Congressional Progressive Caucus hawking their progressive budget plan through the media?
                                            • Spence
                                            • Malvern, PA
                                            In response to #2,

                                            Progressives tried, but Administration simply ignores all ideas and people from this group. They are so far Right,we are the enemy. As you know the media is controlled and governed by the Right so it was DOA.

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