The Question Is Whether It’s Curable

You may have come across the commentary that the co-chairmen of a debt and deficit commission initiated by the president offered to the National Governor’s Association:

The commission leaders said that, at present, federal revenue is fully consumed by three programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. “The rest of the federal government, including fighting two wars, homeland security, education, art, culture, you name it, veterans — the whole rest of the discretionary budget is being financed by China and other countries,” [Republican Senator from Wyoming Alan] Simpson said.
“We can’t grow our way out of this,” [former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine] Bowles said. “We could have decades of double-digit growth and not grow our way out of this enormous debt problem. We can’t tax our way out. . . . The reality is we’ve got to do exactly what you all do every day as governors. We’ve got to cut spending or increase revenues or do some combination of that.”

Bowles called the national debt “a cancer.” Glenn Reynolds thinks “the whole point of the commission is to give political cover to tax increases,” which may be the case. The question that follows immediately, however, is: Cover from whom? Cornell Law Professor and Barrington resident William Jacobson might suggest that the people of the United States have already tired of the game:

Barack Obama was not elected because of a progressive political shift in the nation. The nation remains a country which believes, according to polling by James Carville and Stan Greenberg, that:

“The best way to improve our economy and create jobs is to cut government spending and cut taxes so businesses can prosper and the private sector can start creating jobs.”

Yet everything the Democrats do goes in the opposite direction. …
Democrats took advantage of a crisis, and then doubled-down by massively increasing our national debt to advantage preferred political constituencies.

The elections will tell, ultimately, but my expectation is that the American electorate won’t look at the bill of particulars and see taxation as the reasonable response. Of course, the two questions that follow that assessment are:

  • Have the national Democrats managed to lock themselves in, as their state members have in Rhode Island?
  • Have the Republicans learned their lesson sufficiently to avoid returning to the disappointing practices of their dominant years during the Bush administration?

If the answers are “yes” and “no,” respectively, then our nation is in for grave times, indeed. On the second question, though, there’s hope (I hope) that an infusion of tea-party Republicans will be enough to inoculate a Republican Congress against recidivism.

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