State of the Union Wish List

What could Obama say tomorrow during the 2012 State of the Union that would bring Republicans to the table?  According to Chris Christie, “He could finally embrace Simpson-Bowles“, the plan that Alan Simpson and Erksine Bowles developed while chairing President Obama’s National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.  As Christie said,

He asked for it, he put it on the shelf for purely political reasons, he showed political cowardice by doing it, and an absolute fear of confronting the big issues in our country.

The plan earned broad bipartisan support because the cuts are pretty equal opportunity — defense, taxes, health, social security, and Medicare. And because it actually, and permanently, lowers our debt (blue line):

The red line is what happens if we make no changes to current law. The green line includes likely policy actions -- extension of Bush tax cuts; continual AMT patch; Medicare doc fix; and a continuation of the estate tax cut

But the Obama administration never embraced the plan, relegating it to the “good effort, maybe next time” pile.  Curiously though, Republicans support the plan despite the fact that, compared to Obama’s proposal, Simpson-Bowles recommends more revenue from taxes and more cuts to defense.

Maybe they support it because Simpson-Bowles also offers something that no politician has yet to propose: cuts to social security and Medicare.

Any serious effort to contain the deficit must, must, must reign in Social Security, Medicare, and to an extent, Medicaid.  They’re huge, they’re growing faster than any other part of the federal budget (except potentially interest on the national debt), and, thanks to the demographic storm, their trends won’t get any better in the near future.  Any deficit reduction package that ignores these big three, as Obama’s April 2011 proposal unequivocally does.

Or, as Ezra Klein suggests, maybe Republicans support the plans because rather than supporting Obama’s plan,

compromising on Simpson-Bowles is compromising with two men who have become synonymous with bipartisanship and tough choices and hard decisions and all sorts of other platitudes voters love.

Or maybe they support it because Obama doesn’t, and that’s reason enough.  Which is why I’m all about a S-B renaissance in the 2012 SOTU. Bring it onnnnnnnnnn, baby.


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