Erskine Bowles, the Democratic co-chairman of President Obama’s bipartisan deficit cutting commission, wrote a an op-ed in Friday’s Wall Street Journal titled “Why I’m Optimistic About Cutting the Deficit.”
Bowles, the former chief of staff to President Clinton, wrote: “America will only turn the corner on the debt if both sides come out of their corners to support a balanced plan that gets rid of unnecessary tax expenditures, and keeps the promise of Social Security and Medicare by putting entitlements on a sustainable path for the long haul.”
But on Wednesday—just two days earlier—both sides came out of their corners to resoundingly reject just such a plan when the House of Representatives put to a vote a bill explicitly modeled on the recommendations of his Simpson-Bowles Commission report.
Oddly, Bowles did not acknowledge that the grand bipartisan compromise he has advocated went down in flames with 382 nays to just 38 aye votes, but cited an improving economy, a growing consensus on the importance of deficit reduction and increasing movement toward bipartisanship as reasons for optimism.
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If history is a guide, however, the Simpson-Bowles report will go the way of countless blue-ribbon bipartisan commissions before it: Remember President Clinton’s 1993 Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform that was supposed to fix Medicare and Social Security before they became problems, while addressing tax expenditures like the home mortgage interest deduction that leave vast revenue holes in the budget? That commission, co-chaired by Bowles’ respected, centrist Democrat predecessor John Breaux (along with Republican Bill Thomas) was ignored. Washington is the graveyard of bipartisan dreams.