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Deficit Commission Is Harshing My Mellow

I've been pretty mellow about the deficit commission, which I've thought might do some good but would almost certainly do no harm. But Brian Beutler's report on the commission is starting to freak me out, man:

[E]arly reports indicate that the GOP's unwillingness to support any significant tax increases are pushing the group toward proposed entitlement slashes and larger budget cuts. ...
And while Americans might expect that the commission would look at all spending, some members are seemingly using their positions to advance professional interests. A source familiar with the proceedings of the working group on discretionary spending tells TPM that some commissioners, including one military contractor, would prefer to save money by freezing military pay and scaling back benefits, rather than by eliminating waste in defense contracting.

A few reactions. First, they have a military contractor on the commission? Talk about the fox and the henhouse!

Second, some kind of 50-50 split between revenue and outlay has to be the shape of the deal. Democrats can't agree to a deal consisting overwhelmingly of spending cuts merely because Republicans dogmatically oppose tax hikes and don't actually care about the deficit at all except to the extent that it's a rhetorical framing device to oppose spending.

The reality is that even a 50-50 split is a win for conservatives, if their goal is to reduce the size of government rather than to increase the short-term after-tax income of the highest-earning 1% of Americans. The size of government is determined by spending levels. Money that has been spent has been taxed. Deficit spending is merely deferred taxation. Raising taxes to pay for current spending does not effect the size of government. It merely changes the timing of when that spending is paid for. By the same token, a package of spending cuts and tax cuts is a straight reduction in the size of government.

The only way this isn't true is if you think that higher tax revenues cause spending to rise. Many Republicans do believe this, or claim to believe it, even though it's demonstrably false. But if they're so committed to dogma that they can't recognize their own ideological self-interest, then the conclusion has to be that you can't make a deal with them. You can't just let the crazier side dictate the terms of the bargain.

Third, I'm also trying to keep in mind that this leak seems to come from a liberal source who's obviously trying to drive the discussion with this leak. So this might be a one-sided presentation of the commission's direction. I don't know. But the fact that previous leaks also suggest a package weighted overwhelmingly toward spending cuts make me think that liberals really are getting rolled here.