Has Bowles-Simpson Failed?

Ezra Klein thinks it has:


What’s odd about the sudden rash of deficit-reduction plans is that they’re all being released by members of the Simpson-Bowles commission. Rep.Jan Schakowsky is on the commission, and so too is Alice Rivlin, who co-chaired the group that led to the Bipartisan Policy Group’s effort (which, I believe, started its work before the Simpson-Bowles commission).

The point of the Simpson-Bowles commission wasn’t full employment for budget wonks. It was consensus. Instead, the Simpson-Bowles commission has led to a further fracturing: The progressives have gone toward Schakowsky, wonkish types have moved toward Rivlin and the BPC, and the center-right has been cautiously supportive of Simpson-Bowles. Some are spinning all this as a different sort of victory. In this telling, Simpson-Bowles has kicked off a healthy discussion. And maybe it is. But it’s a failure given the original goals of the project. Far from showing that we can all agree, it’s proved that we can’t.

I actually think this conversation has been very constructive.

(1) The fact that Alice Rivlin, described by Ezra as “the person on the Simpson-Bowles commission who knows the most about the deficit,” and Rep. Paul Ryan have embraced the same approach to reforming Medicare strikes me as a pretty significant step towards bipartisan compromise.

(2) The fact that Rep. Jan Schakowsky has offered a detailed plan gives us a good sense of how avowed progressives intend to approach the long-term fiscal imbalance. I should note that I strongly endorse Josh Barro’s take on this subject.

(3) My sense is that the team behind the Bowles-Simpson co-chairs’ mark understood that it would a lightning rod.

(4) I’m not sure that the Bowles-Simpson conversation hasn’t shown us that the center and the right can agree on many important aspects of how we can address the fiscal imbalance. And that just might be all we need. 

(5) I’ve been very impressed by the reaction to the mark from conservatives, leaving aside a handful of pressure groups. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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