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Preliminary Thoughts On The Debt Commission's Plan

In any relationship, the party that's willing to walk away has the most power. Republicans care far, far less about the deficit than do Democrats, and this power gave them enormous sway over the deficit commission's proposal, released today.

I've started going over it, and I plan to revise my opinion later. My provisional view is that the plan is probably supportable. The long-term deficit really is a big problem. The fair thing, it seems to me, would be to craft a solution that meets halfway between Republican and Democratic priorities. Of course a plan like that wouldn't pass, because it would violate the GOP's prime directive to oppose tax increases in any and all circumstances, and Democrats wouldn't jump out to endorse a proposal that couldn't get any Republican support.

Anticipating this dynamic, the commissioners crafted a plan that's tilted, overwhelmingly, toward Republican priorities. About three-quarters of the savings come from spending cuts. And the one-quarter that comes from increased revenue comes through an overhauled tax code with lower marginal rates and corporate income tax rates--that is, something that is a fairly good deal for conservatives on its own terms.

Like I said, this seems potentially supportable vis a vis the alternative of doing nothing. Of course, there's a wide range of policies that would be supportable vis a vis doing nothing. Precisely because Republicans care so little about the deficit, the commission had to cater to their whims by crafting a plan that lies almost as far as can be toward the right-wing side of potential choices.

I suspect it will probably fail anyway. It's so heavily weighted toward spending cuts that it will alienate most liberals. But the fact that it has any revenue increases at all will still make it anathema to most conservatives.  But I'm interested to see it play out.

Click here for Jonathan Cohn's take on the report.