Joe Scarborough must use the power of civility to save the debt panel report

The deficit commission's recommendations will most likely fail in Congress, unless serious centrists save the day

Published December 1, 2010 5:15PM (EST)

Erskine Bowles, Sen. Alan Simpson and Joe Scarborough
Erskine Bowles, Sen. Alan Simpson and Joe Scarborough

The release of the president's fiscal commission report on how to fix the debt is like triple-Christmas for your serious moderate Beltway types, because now is the time for empty rhetoric about "political courage" and the urgent need to do something dreadfully unpopular. It is time for America to shut up and take its medicine! You can download the report -- it is literally subtitled "The Moment of Truth," because "Report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform: 2 Responsible 2 Austere" was taken -- right here. And I hope you enjoy it, because even if they can convince enough elected Republicans to accept measures to increase government revenue to get this plan out of their little commission (convincing Democrats to accept the gradual gutting of the social safety net is the easy part!), I have a hard time imagining something sensible like the elimination of the mortgage-interest deduction making it through Congress without suddenly becoming the expansion of the mortgage-interest deduction.

So this entire process has been an exercise in the expression of Seriousness, which is the only thing retired Washington graybeards are truly good at.

This is why I'm calling on Joe Scarborough and Michael Bloomberg to join forces to use the power of civility to enact the recommendations of the deficit commission. As those two know, the fundamental problem with American politics today is that people are rude to each other, and hyper-partisans refuse to respectfully come up with pragmatic centrist responses to the pressing issues of the day.

So if Scarborough and Bloomberg are correct about this "civility" thing, all we need to do to get House Republicans to abandon their fanatical opposition to any measure that raises revenue for the government is ask them very, very nicely. And all we need to do to convince the American people that we should both cut corporate taxes and raise the Social Security retirement age is, I guess, explain it in a calm, soothing way. And then they will understand.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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