There are some pretty interesting reactions to the draft blueprint of the debt commission. On the right, National Review is cautiously supportive:
We are both pleasantly surprised and modestly encouraged by the program outlined by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairmen of the president’s deficit-reduction task force. There’s no VAT in sight, nor is there unrealistic happy-talk about balancing the budget through a federal Taylorism campaign or symbolic assaults on the unholy trinity of waste, fraud, and abuse. Instead, there is a serious series of concrete proposals for constraining entitlement costs, simplifying the tax code, and putting a leash on future federal expenditures. Whereas the Obama-Reid-Pelosi triumvirate had put the country on the road toward a national debt topping 200 percent of GDP — with $1 trillion a year in interest payments alone — the Bowles-Simpson program would stabilize the debt and begin reducing it. The program would keep the debt to 40 percent of GDP in 2037 and would bring annual deficits down to a more manageable 2.2 percent of GDP by 2015, and 1 percent in the following years.
As is the New York Times editorial page:
As we read the chairmen’s proposal, we had one very strong reaction: We hoped the Republicans would pause long enough in their gleeful planning of President Obama’s final defeat, and the Democrats would stop wringing their hands, long enough to read this important document — and then act on it.
Michale Linden at the Center for American Progress Action Fund isn't totally dismissive.
Surprisingly, the deficit-reduction-uber-alles Washington Post editorial page strikes a cautious note:
Our fundamental question - and we're questioning, not howling - is whether the proposal presses too hard, too fast on discretionary and mandatory spending. The overall goal is to get spending to 22 percent of gross domestic product by 2020 - it will be 23.8 percent this year - and eventually to 21 percent of GDP. That would be balanced out on the tax side by bringing revenue up to 21 percent of GDP, from the average of 18 to 19 percent over the past half-century. But the needs of an aging society may require more spending than the plan envisions; the enormous amounts being squeezed out of health care may not be realistic. The Social Security proposals are heavily tilted in the direction of cutting scheduled benefits over raising revenue - even as seniors are being asked to shoulder a greater part of health-care costs.
I agree and think there should be some adjustment here. I think this provision, cited by the Times, also has to go:
In a misguided provision, it assumes that spending and revenues should not exceed 21 percent of gross domestic product — a numeric limit that could make it impossible to meet future national needs. In all, however, the proposal is both broad and deep.
It's not clear what the enforcement mechanism is, obviously.
I'll have more to say about the politics and the substance later today. But the reaction among opinion leaders suggests that there may be more of a chance that this leads to something real than I suspected.