When the bipartisan commission headed by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson presented their recommendations for entitlement reform in December 2010, Obama ignored them.They seemed to end up in the White House’s round file.
When House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan put Medicare reform in his 2011 budget proposal, and all but four Republican House members voted for it, the Obama political operation ginned up attacks on Republicans for killing “Medicare as we know it.”
Last week at a Budget Committee hearing, Ryan chided Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for not having proposed any solution to the looming entitlement problem.
Geithner’s reply: “You’re right when you say we’re not coming before you today to say ‘we have a definitive solution to that long-term problem.’ What we do know is we don’t like yours.”
In other words, Campaign 2012 takes precedence over taking us off the trajectory that is heading toward the fiscal condition of Greece. A cabinet secretary able to draw on the policymaking expertise of the Treasury and on his administration’s own Bowles-Simpson Commission is unwilling to do so because his president is following the game plan of David Plouffe and David Axelrod.
The Treasury cannot be bothered even to draft the new alternative minimum tax that Obama keeps demanding Congress pass to make Warren Buffett pay a higher tax rate than his secretary.
The folks who hailed Obama as temperamentally bipartisan have given Ryan and House Republicans little credit for addressing a tough problem and will probably tell us Obama will be bipartisan in a second term. I think it’s more likely he’ll keep kicking the can down the road.
— Michael Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner. © 2012 The Washington Examiner.