Home / General / Ladies and gentlemen, behold the liberal half of Bowles-Simpson in action

Ladies and gentlemen, behold the liberal half of Bowles-Simpson in action


Have any of you all met Paul Ryan? We should get him to come to the university. I’m telling you, this guy is amazing. I always thought I was okay at arithmetic, this guy can run circles around me. And he is honest, he is straightforward, he is sincere. And the budget he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget, and it cut the budget deficit, just like we did, by $4 trillion.

The president came out with his own plan. And, the president as you remember, came out with a budget. And I don’t think anybody took that budget very seriously. The Senate voted against it 97-to-nothing.

Barack Obama hired this guy to be the “liberal” co-chair of the Catfood Commission.

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  • hylen

    Nader for Prez . . .

    • R Johnston

      The electoral college may be an anti-democratic abomination that no civilized people could ever countenance, but I take perverse comfort from the knowledge that as a New Yorker my vote for President this year doesn’t matter in any possible way.

      • Malaclypse

        Exactly the feeling I get from being a Masshole.

        • Jamie

          Being a San Franciscan means there is no point in my voting for anything above the county level.

          • DrDick

            Being from Montana means I can never take my vote for granted and have no choices to the left of the Democrats (I do have several choices even more batshit crazy and regressive than the GOP).

  • Alan Tomlinson

    Fuck Bowles.


    Alan Tomlinson

    • Anderson

      Finger Bowles.

      • Slocum

        Jingle Bowles.

        • sven

          Schweddy Bowles

          • R Johnston

            Irritated Bowles

    • Arthur Godfrey

      Fuck Bowles.

      Let’s just SPEND…SPEND…SPEND…and let the devil take the hindmost.

      • Slocum


      • Holden Pattern

        Well, at present, people are actually paying us to give us money.

        So I’d take that deal all day every day, and start rebuilding the infrastructure that idiots like you have decided should crumble because just like a fourteen-year-old, you fail to understand that you live in a house you didn’t build but which you still need to maintain.

        • Jon

          “It’s not conservative if you reject free dollars.”

          I’d like to see Joe Biden repeat this line, or equivalent, at the VP debate every time Paul Ryan speaks. Of course the press would thoughtfully, sadly, diagnose Biden to be the insane one …

          • Pseudonym

            Unfortunately they’re only free to borrow.

      • Malaclypse

        Oh goodie – JenBob got himself a new nym.

        • DrDick

          Still just as clueless and fact free as ever, however.

    • DrDick

      Not with your equipment and a level IV hazmat suit.

  • TT

    A few more speeches like that and Bowles might start giving Blue Dogs a bad name.

  • Furious Jorge

    Does anybody actually care what Erskine Bowles thinks?

    • Slocum

      Barack Obama?

      • Holden Pattern

        Can’t be true. Was only appointed because Obama knew the commission would deadlock, and if the commission didn’t deadlock, then the Republicans would never go for whatever it was the commission proposed.

        So you see, the appointment of Erskine Bowles to the commission, despite his well-known hatred of actual social insurance programs, is really proof that Obama completely disagrees with Bowles on this.

        • Slocum

          That’s not eleven-dimensional chess, that eleven-dimensional Kriegspiel!!!

          • Bill Murray

            but Kriegspiel was a great game and the first Avalon Hill game I bought.

          • Furious Jorge

            I loved Kriegspiel when I was a lad …

        • Or you can cut out the middle man, and see if Obama has made any of the changes to social insurance programs that the commission recommended.

          What’s that? He hasn’t.

          That’s ok, I’m sure you can come up with some line of patter about how that doesn’t matter.

          • Bill Murray

            have any come to his desk? You shouldn’t use the “he’s constrained by congress” line only when it has results you like.

            • You do know that the White House submits budgets and other legislation to Congress, right?

              That the President’s legislative record doesn’t depend upon waiting around for Congress to act first?

              If I had wanted to, ahem, “use the he’sconstrained by Congress line,” I would have done so. The President is not, in any way, constrained by Congress in the legislation that the White House sends to Congress.

              • Sharon

                Urmmm, can you say “Grand Bargain?”

                I thought you could.

                • You mean the one that didn’t happen because of the President’s demands for a trillion dollar in tax increases?

                  You need to have a point if you’re going to adopt a condescending tone.

              • rea

                There is nothing whatever in the Constitution about the president sending legislation to Congress.

                Some guy from Lowell had just as much claim to set policy by proposing legislation.

                • To point out the obvious, this is overly pedantic. No, the President can’t technically introduce legislation in Congress, but his legislative relations staff can certainly draft a bill, send it to some staffers on Capitol Hill, and have their boss introduce it verbatim in either chamber of Congress.

                • For real?

                  You know so little about the American political system that you don’t realize the President – every single President – has had a legislative agenda?

                  So much for the Bush tax cuts. So much for ObamaCare. So much for Ronald Reagan raising taxes in 1986. So much for Bush’s effort to privatize Social Security. So much for Reagan’s defense build-up.

                  No, none of those things happened, and Presidents don’t ever propose legislation, but merely passively wait for Congress to act on all matters involving legislation.

                  Dude, WTF?

            • Remember when George Bush passively sat around waiting for a Social Security privatization bill to come to his desk?

              And since it never did, we’re left with absolutely no way to discern how he felt about that issue.

      • You can tell because of how he hasn’t done anything Bowles recommended.

        • Slocum

          Indeed, the President’s own approach to cost-cutting follows much of the Simpson-Bowles plan. It calls for phasing in $4 trillion in savings over 12 years by cutting three dollars in spending and interest payments for every dollar of revenue raised from the tax code. It advocates deep cuts in mandatory spending programs excluding Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, to the tune of $360 billion, along with $770 billion in cuts to non-security discretionary spending and another $400 billion in security spending.

          See also:

          • Slocum
            • Did you, by any chance, read those links before you posted them?

              Everyone, please, read the CNN link. It’s awesome.

              a panel led by Wyoming Republican Alan Simpson and North Carolina Democrat Erskine Bowles produced a deficit-reduction plan that the White House basically ignored

              Co-chair Erskine Bowles has noted his surprise at Obama’s stiff-arm

              Bowles said he believes Obama decided to abandon the report based on advice from his political advisers and over the objections of his economic team.

              Deficit hawks aren’t holding their breath for a major breakthrough in Obama’s budget, which he’ll unveil today. Instead, they are working to rebuild political momentum for a deal.

              • Slocum

                Did you read the parts that weren’t those quotes?

                • Yep, I read the whole thing.

                  Again, I urge everyone else to do the same.

              • Furious Jorge


            • What you need to keep in mind, Slocum, is that the Village media is trying to fluff the Simpson-Bowles “plan” by pretending that every single proposal to reduce the deficit is “based on the Simpson-Bowles Plan,” no matter what the content, in order to make rejection of that actual plan’s recommendations appear to be unprincipled.

          • I don’t know who wrote that, but if Obama’s proposals – what proposals, exactly? – exclude cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, then they are most certainly not following the Bowles-Simpson plan-that-wasn’t-a-plan.

            • The Navigator

              joe from Lowell, are you denying that Obama secretly agreed to a Grand Bargain which would have both raised a trillion dollars in taxes and also involved deep cuts to SSM&M? You seem to be taking the quasi-naive stance that we can discern the whole of the president’s stances by looking at his policy proposals that have been made in public – and that we can’t, and shouldn’t, try to discern anything by looking at credible reports about what he’s said in private – but surely it’s possible for a politician to sign on to a deal privately while refusing to commit publicly so long as the other side won’t give him political cover by signing on? And surely it’s possible that a grand bargain could both raise taxes and also deeply cut SSM&M? And that Obama might be poised to embrace that deal publicly as soon as he can get the GOP to swallow the tax increases?

              • Yes, I am denying your “secret agreement.” What the hell does “secretly agree” mean? Agreed with whom? During the debt ceiling debate, there was only one agreement, and the conditions included no cuts to entitlement benefits.

                You seem to be taking the quasi-naive stance that we can discern the whole of the president’s stances by looking at his policy proposals that have been made in public

                No, I’m taking exactly the opposite position: that his public statements (which included putting things “on the table, ” you might remember) should not be taken at face value, and that his actual actions (such as including and then increasing the poison-pill value of tax hikes he required, or insisting that benefit cuts be left out of the sequestration entirely) are a much better way of discerning his actual position on those question than his public posturing.

                but surely it’s possible for a politician to sign on to a deal privately while refusing to commit publicly so long as the other side won’t give him political cover by signing on?

                The Republicans’ refusal to “sign on” was not a variable distinct from Obama’s position. His demands for a deal were designed to make sure they wouldn’t sign on.

                And that Obama might be poised to embrace that deal publicly as soon as he can get the GOP to swallow the tax increases?

                And when would that be? He has a better chance of getting them to swallow the moon.

                • The Navigator

                  And when would that be? He has a better chance of getting them to swallow the moon.

                  OK, probably, for now – but if the Tea Party fever were t0 break – say, influential GOP elites were to conclude that Ryan caused them to lose the election, and the urge to destroy Obama fades now that he’s past the election and term-limited – then we’re left with a willingness to slash SSM&M. I take it you’re convinced that that will never happen, that Obama only extends these offers so long as they include guaranteed poison pills to preclude any chance of actually reaching a deal. I’ll grant that the fact that he’s never publicly committed to, or called for, these sorts of cuts is evidence in favor of your view, that he never intends to actually agree to any such cuts. But on the hand we have the reports that he actually cut a deal with Boehner, only to have Boehner back out when Cantor et al. rebelled. That would seem to suggest that at least some GOP leaders think they could cut a deal, and that Obama would in fact agree to it.

                • The Navigator

                  Also, joe, I’d like to respectfully suggest that you don’t help your cause when you say

                  Yes, I am denying your “secret agreement.” What the hell does “secretly agree” mean?

                  It means Obama met with John Boehner in a private room, with no media, and with aides who were directed not to report the content of the discussions with anyone outside the room, and said ‘John, here’s the deal: I can’t let it get out that I agreed to this deal unless I have your firm commitment that the GOP leadership will publicly endorse the terms, but I hereby affirm to you, in this private room, that I will commit to slash SSM&M in exchange for the GOP voting for $1 trillion in tax hikes,” and Boehner said “Sure, I’ll do that – just let me run it by Cantor first.”

                  Agreed with whom?

                  With John Boehner.

                  This is all based on leaks and obviously I wasn’t there and so maybe it’s all wrong, and it didn’t happen that way at all, and Obama never suggested any such thing. But the credible reports are that a discussion along those lines did take place. And that’s what I mean by “secretly agree.”

                • then we’re left with a willingness to slash SSM&M

                  No, we’re not. It’s only in the context of “…if you guys will agree to $1 trillion in tax hikes” that he’s expressed any openness to doing so. As soon as that condition was out of the way – in the design of the automatic cuts that kick in when the supercommittee fails – he specifically singled out Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits for protection, ensuring that the cuts would fall elsewhere.

                  Anyway, a “secret agreement” with John Boehner that requires Eric Cantor and the House Republicans to agree to a trillion dollars in tax hikes isn’t an agreement at all.

  • Amok92

    Paul why do want Rmoney/Cheesehead Hitler to win? You emoprogs need to wait until 2098 to start criticizing President Obama.

  • Bloix

    “Does anybody actually care what Erskine Bowles thinks?”

    Since he’s the leading candidate to replace Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury for Obama’s second term, the answer is yes.


    • I don’t know that you get to be the leading candidate for anything because Ezra Klein Says It’s So. I like Ezra, but no.

  • McKingford

    Because in an age where almost everyone carries a calculator (if you have a cell phone, smart or not, you have a calculator), and where you can actually buy a calculator at the dollar store for, well, you know…

    …the important thing is that someone be really good at arithmetic.

    • R Johnston

      Being good at arithmetic without the calculator still matters, especially because being good at all sorts of analytic skills that generally require competence at arithmetic matters. Someone who can’t add two and two can’t usefully analyze tax policy regardless of what help he has. It’s also really important that with all these modern computational advantages someone not remain spectacularly incompetent at arithmetic. Anyone who can’t, with or without the aid of readily available calculators, figure out that Ryan is as bad at arithmetic as anyone has ever been since the invention of arabic numerals is someone who should be ignored in the context of any public policy debate.

      • Slocum

        I’m pretty sure his staff had to stop him from gluing macaroni in a dollar sign covered in green glitter on the final draft of his budget.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Maybe one silver lining of the Ryan nomination is that Ezra Klein’s nascent attempt to talk up Bowles as the next Secretary of the Treasury might be strangled in the cradle (pardon the mixed metaphor, but just thinking of Erskine Bowles makes me want to strangle something).

    Serious people : The Ryan Budget in 2012 :: Serious People : The Invasion of Iraq in 2002

    …and, what a surprise, it’s many of the same Serious People!

    • jeer9

      Serious People: Reform From Within/Primaries Can Rid Us Of Those Conservadems!

      Warren or Brown in 2016 (were we lucky enough that either would run) loses handily to Cuomo.

      Serious People: Cuomo’s Better Than Petraeus!

      And they’d be right (pun intended).

      And so the ratchet turns.

      • Pseudonym

        Which Brown? Scott? Jerry? Willie? … uh, Sherrod, I’m guessing?

        • Pseudonym

          Oh, and Google offered me a helpful related search while figuring that out, FYI: “sherrod brown democrat or republican”

    • Scott Lemieux

      To think that Ezra was touting Bowles for the Treasury strikes me as a, how shall we say, egregious misreading.

      • FlipYrWhig

        Loomis appeared to indulge in it.

        • FlipYrWhig

          Actually, I take that back. He wasn’t saying that Klein was touting Bowles, he was saying that Klein was running Bowles up the flagpole at the behest of Obama.

          • Pseudonym

            Not to be confused with running a flagpole up the Bowles.

    • Serious people : The Ryan Budget in 2012 :: Serious People : The Invasion of Iraq in 2002

      True. Also:

      Barack Obama : The Ryan Budget in 2012 :: Barack Obama : The Invasion of Iraq in 2002

      Except that an incumbent POTUS and a state senator running for higher office are somewhat different.

  • Scott Lemieux

    Erskine Bowles as part of a blue-ribbon panel, I can live with. In a position of any actual authority, no.

    • R Johnston

      Politics is, in part, the art of learning to live with useless things.

    • bob mcmanus

      What exactly does “I can’t live with” mean here?

      Should Obama nominate Bowles for Treasury in 2013, will you kill yourself or write a sorrowful blogpost, blaming Congress for not letting Obama be Obama?

      • Slocum

        I’d recommend something in between, Scott. Just sayin’.

      • elm

        Yes, Scott, please don’t kill yourself on account of Bowles.

        Perhaps you can use the mighty power of your blog to champion Nader ’16, though.

        • Scott Lemieux

          If only Nader had thrown the 2000 election to the Republicans, Erskine Bowles would be a liberal.

    • FlipYrWhig

      I think we need to backtrack a bit to remember what the point of Simpson-Bowles was supposed to be. IIRC the objective was to come up with a plan for “entitlements” (dreadful word) that won overwhelming support across the political spectrum. It was set up to require 14 out of 18 votes. Considering the membership, you’d think that Jan Schakowsky, Dick Durbin, and Andy Stern would shore up the left flank.

      In theory, a plan so compelling it could win buy-in from 14 out of 18 of these people might actually be worth pursuing. But they couldn’t come up with one, so it ended there. _In that context_, including Bowles as a chair doesn’t seem particularly egregious. The mission of the panel wasn’t to spike the whole concept of “entitlement reform,” it was to work towards an “entitlement reform” framework that would even persuade people well to the left of Erskine Bowles.

      • R Johnston

        I’m pretty sure that the point of Simpson-Bowles was to putter around doing nothing useful for several months and make government look ridiculous and ineffectual, thereby playing into Republican framing and helping Republicans to dominate the 2010 elections.

        Okay, maybe that wasn’t the intended point, but it sure was the obvious predictable effect.

        • Clearly, the 2010 elections turned on the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

          Take that away, and we’re talking about a Democratic romp.

          • R Johnston

            “Helping.” Perhaps you should try to understand words.

            Simpson-Bowles was clearly doomed from the start to make Obama and government more generally look silly. That helps Republicans, if only marginally. Not every condition that helps Republicans achieve victory is either necessary or sufficient for that victory. In fact, very few are.

            • The phrasing I used to accurately describe your comment is far, far less hyperbolic than your claim that the Simpson-Bowles Commission played any role whatsoever in the 2010 elections.

              I understand “helping” just fine, champ. I also understand “politics”, and the claim that anyone anywhere voted the way they did in 2010 because the Simpson-Bowles Commission didn’t get enough members to vote for the plan is not “helping” your reputation as a political analyst.

        • FlipYrWhig

          I see it differently. I think both Simpson-Bowles and the “Supercommittee” were set up to figure out if there might be a genuine bipartisan way forward on fiscal policy and spending — one that would persuade at least one person generally regarded as a partisan fairly far to the right or left. A plan for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security that won over at least one inarguably liberal politician might actually be a good plan.

          (And, by extension, if the whole thing had been designed as a way to give bipartisan cover to killing the Great Society, the vote could have been set up as a bare majority. They stacked the deck against anything being resolved so that if anything DID get resolved it might be a good idea.)

          • R Johnston

            genuine bipartisan

            That’s generally an oxymoron under current U.S. conditions, and when it’s not it’s existence is inevitably a reason for despair. Nonpartisanship is good in some cases, but bipartisanship means either that the Democrats caved to insane stupidity that will make millions of people suffer or that both parties are for the moment more interested in covering up their gross incompetence than they are interested in gaining partisan advantage.

            • FlipYrWhig

              Well, I’m personally rather leery of so-called bipartisanship, too, but I still think the point of setting up a panel with half Republicans, half Democrats, and then charging it to vote at least 14-4 on whatever it recommends, is to be able to say credibly that you really have achieved a no-fooling bipartisan near-consensus. To get 14-4 you have to get a majority of the “wrong” side to vote with a unanimous bloc of the “right” side. And if they had actually come up with something that achieved such a vote, that would be politically and conceptually meaningful. I’m sort of glad it didn’t happen, but that was the objective.

              • R Johnston

                When you know beforehand that you have a zero percent chance of achieving your stated goal, your stated goal is a lie or a delusion. No sane person actually wanted or expected a 14-4 vote.

                And you should be thanking anything and anyone you think appropriate that a 14-4 vote didn’t happen. A vote in favor of anything that could have gotten a 14-4 vote would have meant austerity budgets in the U.S. and the next Great Depression.

                • That’s generally an oxymoron under current U.S. conditions

                  That’s why you make bipartisanship a necessary condition only for things as meaningless as a Blue Ribbon Commission – because if you don’t manage to draw that royal flush, it doesn’t matter.

                  A 14-4 vote couldn’t have happened if the plan recommended austerity budgets in the U.S. and the next Great Depression.

                  That’s the point of setting it up to have a 14-4 vote.

                  You don’t seem to be following this at all.

                • FlipYrWhig

                  But if you’re right that something hyper-austerian could have gotten 14 of 18 votes, then to me it stands to reason that it would have been proposed, approved with the S-B committee, and then been moved on for full Congressional approval. But even austerity “solutions” didn’t get that far. Consequently, IMHO, anything that _could_ have gotten 14 of 18 people on board wouldn’t have been like that.

                  Which is the point: whatever hypothetically could have been a solution would have had to run quite a gauntlet, by design. It would have to be a plan palatable to, say, all 9 Democrats and 5 of 9 Republicans, or 7 out of 9 on each side. That’s almost inconceivable, as you say. But that’s a feature, not a bug: if they had managed to do it, it might be genuinely novel, transverse to political conventional pieties on both sides.

                  Yes, it’s just about impossible to imagine. Precisely.

      • No, the point of Bowles-Simpson was to give the deficit obsessed chattering class a shiny object to chase after hopelessly.

        • Are you suggesting that a Blue Ribbon Commission might be used purely for appearances’ sake, to make the person who established it appear like he’s making an issue a priority without taking actual action?

  • angry bitter drunk

    That’s what happens when the elite buy one political party and hire the other…

  • Joe

    Catfood Commission? I heard on NPR that Sneakie Pie Brown (a cat) is running for President. What is SP’s position on that?

    • John

      God save us from cat people.

  • Pseudonym

    But look at how well all that cat food has lowered his BMI!

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