The preliminary report from the co-chairs of the president’s deficit commission makes for a very plausible leftmost boundary of the serious fiscal-policy debate. If this is the Obama administration’s starting position in the conversation about deficit and debt reduction, it will be a serious position and a constructive conversation. They will obviously need to be willing to move rightward on some key issues (especially the entire health-care question, which is the report’s most glaring and serious weakness, and is at the heart of our crisis of public finances). But on social security, discretionary spending, and many of the proposed tax reforms, this is a very good start.
The people who treat even this as going too far and “simply unacceptable” (to borrow the phrase employed by the outgoing Speaker of the House) are simply not serious about the problems we confront, and not ready for the kind of debate the country needs to have about how to get out of the hole we have been digging for ourselves and how to get beyond the social-democratic welfare-state fantasy that has dominated our political imagination for a century and think seriously about what genuine democratic-capitalism with a responsible safety net for the poor ought to look like.