But the CBO does score legislative proposals, and gave good marks to a bipartisan proposal offered by the president’s own hand-picked deficit-reduction panel. The presidential commission offered a credible plan, one that even included the tax increases so beloved of this administration. Naturally, the president disavowed his own commission’s proposal, just as he would disavow his own budget proposal. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi declared it “dead on arrival” in the House. The plan was angrily rejected by congressional Democrats precisely and specifically because it contained modest entitlement-reform proposals. Likewise, Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, which would have brought health-care entitlement spending down to sustainable levels while making key reforms to improve the performance of those programs, passed the House only to be rejected out of hand by Sen. Harry Reid and his Democratic colleagues, precisely because it contained entitlement reforms. It would have cut some $4.4 trillion off of the deficits over a decade, well beyond the $4 trillion mark suggested by the credit-rating agencies. But Democrats would have none of it.
The deal that finally did pass would have contained significantly more in deficit-reduction, except for the fact that Democrats categorically refused to consider — is this sounding familiar? — entitlement reform, the most important issue.
Content to offer blind opposition, the Obama administration never put forward a detailed plan of its own, though it insisted it had one, a fact that resulted in a moment of unintentional comedy when White House press secretary Jay Carney irritatedly asked unconvinced reporters: “You need it written down?” When it comes to the Obama administration and spending restraint, the American people have every reason to demand that the president put it in writing.
And so we are led to this sorry pass. We are sympathetic to protests that S&P may have reacted more strongly to the political drama surrounding the debt-ceiling debate than was justified by the underlying economics: Despite the troubles in the eurozone, which are quite severe, Germany and France currently boast of higher credit ratings than that of the United States, a nation that accounts for nearly a quarter of the world’s economic output. But even those who believe S&P has overreacted must concede that the finances of the United States have been considerably weakened since 2008. Obama’s deficits have been unprecedented in peacetime, and this downgrade is unprecedented for our nation, at war or at peace. Its effects remain unknown at this time, but its causes do not: S&P spelled out its reasoning quite clearly.
Entitlement reform is the “key issue.” The Tea Party is not standing in the way of entitlement reform. Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid are. Democrats believe that they have discovered a cartoon villain in the Tea Party, and they are hoping that American voters are gullible enough to be distracted by the political theatrics. Come November 2012, Americans should keep in mind both the insult and the injury — to the nation and its credit. President Obama has indeed “made history,” as he promised, but not the sort that we might have hoped for.