Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Passes for Sober Second Judgment in the US

Here's a post by Paul Krugman on his NY Times blog about the mess created by Obama's "deficit commission". A group appointed with the task of circumventing "politics as usual" to come up with a tidy recommendation that could simply be submitted to a vote without raising all the political skeletons in the closet:
... those who are defending the deficit commission on the grounds that there are some potentially good ideas in there are missing what the purpose of the commission was supposed to be.

After all, anyone can come up with some good deficit-reduction ideas; I can come up with a dozen even before I’ve had my morning coffee. Brainstorming is easy.

What the commission was supposed to do was something much harder: it was supposed to produce a package that Congress would give an up and down vote. To do this, it would have to produce something much better than a package with some good stuff buried in among the bad stuff; it would have to produce a package good enough to accept as is.

And it didn’t do that. Instead, it produced a package that may have had some good things in it, but also, remarkably, introduced a whole slew of new bad ideas that weren’t even in the debate before. A 21 percent of GDP limit on revenues? Cutting the top marginal rate to 23 percent? Sharp reductions in the government work force without, as far as anyone can tell, a commensurate reduction in the work to be done? Instead of cutting through the fog, the commission brought out an extra smoke machine.

Or put it another way: what on earth are people who say things like, “This proposal can be a starting point for discussion” thinking? We’ve been discussing and discussing, ad nauseam; the commission was supposed to provide a finishing point for discussion. Instead, it produced a PowerPoint that is one part stuff that has long been on the table, one part conservative wish-list, and one part just weirdly ill-considered.
Obama appoints some greybeards with supposedly the experience and the political "balance" to come up with a package that could finesse all the usual fights. Instead, they open up a new front in the war of words. This is part of the "change you can believe in" that Obama has brought to the US?

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