As promised (threatened?),I have more on Chait’s defense of Simpson/Bowles here.
Compromising with median legislators who hold the cards because they’re essentially indifferent to social problems is justifiable when if leads to a program that, by creating a constituency of supporters, becomes difficult to repeal. As long as the legislation improves the status quo, it’s worth passing, and holding out for better alternatives that show no sign of getting the necessary votes for the foreseeable future doesn’t make any sense. But this has nothing to do with a deficit plan, because deficit-creating legislation is the opposite. It’s hard to repeal Social Security or Medicare because it provides benefits that large numbers of people treasure. It’s easy to lower capital gains taxes or increase agricultural subsidies, because some politically powerful interests will be happy, while nobody can see the costs directly. So there’s really no reason to compromise — making a deal on the deficit in itself doesn’t actually get you anything enforceable going forward. And this isn’t just hypothetical; we have extensive evidence that Republicans don’t care about the deficit and would undo most of whatever decent provisions remained as soon as they get unified control of the government. So why the hell would you give them a deal tilted in their favor? It’s a lose-lose proposition.