Would you please do Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson the courtesy of paying attention to their new Simpson-Bowles plan? Yes, today the two deficit vultures released the long-awaited sequel to their other plan, the famous “Simpson-Bowles Plan” (now officially to be referred to as “Simpson-Bowles Episode IV”). The original Simpson-Bowles plan was incredibly popular despite the fact that its actual recommendations weren’t supported by anyone, including the people who always talked about how much they loved it.
This new plan got a big rollout sponsored by Politico, whose Mike Allen hosted and interviewed the pair this morning in Washington — supporting Simpson-Bowles is not considered “biased” or “partisan” according to the usual rules of traditional journalistic objectivity — but some mean hecklers interrupted them. In a worrying sign for people for whom deficit reduction via earned benefits program cuts is a moral crusade, the heckler got a lot more attention on Twitter than the new Simpson-Bowles plan did. Can they recapture the magic? Or will this be like whatever gross stunt food product KFC put out after the Double Down, a pale imitation of a genuine phenomenon, doomed to be forgotten?
S and B are doing their best to explain why we need a new, different plan. One reason is that, in their eyes, the situation has gotten so, so much worse since their last plan, that we now need more deficit reduction than we needed last time. The other reason is that the point of this plan is to be a model for a “compromise” between the current supposed GOP sequester-avoiding plan and the Obama administration’s sequester-avoiding plan, and it does this by adding tax revenue that the GOP has explicitly ruled out — but not as much as the original Simpson-Bowles plan, which had a lotta taxes — and demanding even more spending cuts than the original plan did. So the new centrist common sense bipartisan compromise is way more conservative than it was a few years ago, but still not conservative enough to win any Republican support (beyond insincere rhetorical support, I mean).
The cuts come from Medicare and Medicaid, because while the Obama administration laid out a plan to get as much deficit reduction as Simpson-Bowles originally demanded, the Obama administration did so in the wrong way, without trying to cut a bunch of money from those programs and Social Security.
As you may have heard, probably on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the United States will eventually — in a few decades — have a big debt problem, mostly because we have committed to paying for healthcare for old people and healthcare costs are ballooning. In order to “fix the debt,” we will probably just have to pay doctors and drug companies less. (That will make a lot of doctors and drug companies mad, but the alternative is “let old people die” so they should just suck it up.) And there, I’ve solved the long-term budget deficit, let’s all go home. (Also, there is no real point to “balancing the budget,” something the United States has basically never done, except that it sounds nice to people.)
Politico is still pretty excited about Simpson and Bowles but this plan — which no one in Congress or the White House cares about, and which is so incredibly vague in its details as to be effectively meaningless — is just a waste of everyone’s time.