What I find most disturbing about the Simpson-Bowles report, among many disturbing things, including a number fetish, is that our political discourse, which is usually mostly irrelevant, has become even more so. Why?
Because we’re focusing on the wrong deficit.
While this deficit proposal is obviously an attempt to shift the debate rightward by proposing an arbitrary amount of GDP to be spent on government–and thereby ‘limit’* the scope of government–it is having a far more insidious effect. Many progressives and liberals (here, here, here) feel the need to respond to this proposal, even though it is literally just the half-baked ideas of two guys under a time crunch.
By responding to this, we have allowed the issues of jobs and wages, not to mention the continuing saga of Big Shitpile, to recede. And those are the issues that matter, not deficits:
A CBS News poll about the 112th Congress taken after midterm elections finds that 56% of the respondents want the focus to be on jobs and the economy and only 4% on the federal budget deficit.
But conservatives and Very Serious Centrists don’t want to talk about job creation or increasing wages and middle-class salaries (which would also help increase tax revenues and lower the deficit by the way). Some of them are just greedy, others just don’t care–or care enough to prioritize jobs.
Éamon de Valera once wrote, “We defeat the British Empire by ignoring it.” Well, let’s just ignore this report, and, instead, get back to focusing on the current jobs deficit. And Democrats should stop being worried about being tagged as ‘pro-deficit’: the Republicans called Democrats that, even after Clinton eliminated the budget deficit. It will never pay off politically for Democrats, so stop worrying about it, since deficit spending is only IOKIYAR.
*Of course, the notion that the amount of money spent by the government has anything to do with ‘limits’ is absurd: a government that only spends money on police and surveillance is ‘limited’ as a percentage of GDP, but is quite intrusive. On the other hand, if we were to double the amount paid out in Social Security (not saying we should, just providing an example), but repeal the Patriot Act, I would argue that is actually limiting government.