In other words, the plan roughly represents the ideological midpoint between the Obama and Boehner fiscal cliff blueprints — which is why the plan is so heavily tilted towards cuts. As Kevin Drum notes, this is particularly odd, given that spending cuts have already been “75 percent of the deficit reduction we’ve done so far.” Drum adds: “this sure makes it hard to take Simpson-Bowles 2.0 seriously as a plan.”
That’s true, but it also provides a useful window into the arbitrariness of Beltway conceptions of what constitutes the ideological “center.” After all, the Boehner fiscal cliff plan raised taxes only on income over $1 million; the Obama offer raised taxes only on income over $400,000. Both of these are to the right of the balance Obama just won an election on: The expiration of the Bush tax cuts for income over $250,000. Yet these were designated the two ideological outer poles for the purposes of defining the debate.
Of course, there is actually a liberal position in this debate, and it isn’t the one held by Obama. As you may recall, House progressives recently released their own blueprint for Round 3 of deficit reduction; it proposed some $948 billion in new revenues, derived entirely from closing loopholes and deductions enjoyed by the rich. The result of this plan, if enacted, would be that overall, our short term fiscal problems would have been resolved through roughly equivalent spending cuts and tax hikes — which is to say, through roughly equivalent concessions by both sides.
But of course, such a notion of balance is so obviously a nonstarter in Washington that it doesn’t even factor into the discussion in any way, shape, or form. The left outer pole of the debate, then, is to the right of the position that helped decisively reelect Obama.
Punish The Proles 2.0 is about selling the Ryan Plan, plain and simple. The little people have to be weaned off Medicare and Social Security, and more and more of our Village elders are moving past the "if it needs to happen" part to "when it needs to happen", and that's apparently going to be Obama's second term legacy, whether or not Obama actually wants to do it (which he's repeatedly said he won't.)
But the Simpson-Bowles plan is now calling for at least $5 trillion in deficit reduction, and basically all of the additional cuts from the $4 trillion or so plan from last time is coming from the social safety net. Tinkering around the edges like Obama has already done will affect people down the road (and in some cases substantially), but the changes these guys are now demanding will turn the scalpel into an orbital particle cannon.
I'm hoping Obama can hold out. I don't think the rest of Democrats in Congress will give him much of a choice.