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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

The Deficit Commission, Bipartisanship & Incrementalism

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As President Obama’s deficit commission grows from an idea to actually considering policy recommendations, one of the co-chairs has, through his inartful and backwards thinking language, provided additional evidence why incrementalism and questing for the Holy Bipartisan Grail are both bad ideas.

I will state once again that all of today’s calls for deficit reduction are pure b.s.  Few, if any, of those calling for fiscal prudence were doing so during the Bush Regime.  Very little discussion was offered by the Very Serious People inside D.C. regarding Bush’s explosion of the federal debt from $5.73 Trillion to over $11 Trillion.  Now that it’s up to $12 Trillion, those same serious people have decided they want to hold this President’s spending accountable.  So the calls to rein in spending today hold no weight with me, especially since I was one of the few calling Bush’s out of control spending into question.

But I’m not going to waste much energy backing Obama up on this subject.  He and his team would prefer to continue many of the same counterproductive economic policies that Bush’s team, Clinton’s team, Bush Sr.’s team and Reagan’s team put into place.  I think Obama’s team is continuing along this path because of their desire to appear bipartisan.  In an age in which those same very serious people chatter about Obama’s deficit spending, they also make much of the partisanship of Washington.  Again, this comes about too late.  Democrats didn’t run around for eight years screaming that anyone who disagreed with them were traitors to their country; the Republicans did.

Instead of standing up to the very serious people and reminding them that they won the 2008 elections quite handily, Obama’s team instead has chosen to roll over at the feet of their accusers and try to make nice with them.  Listening to alternative viewpoints is one thing.  But when Obama himself uses language like “drove the car into the ditch” and “we won’t give them (the Republicans) the keys back”, then establishes a deficit reduction commission and stuffs it full of people who have spent their political careers calling for an end to programs like Social Security, one wonders what his agenda truly is.  If he believed his rhetoric, he might listen to such talk, but rightfully cast it aside as the extremist viewpoint that it is.  Instead, he coddles it.

For those who advocate for incrementalism and bipartisanship, as was the case during the Health Care Insurance Debate of 2009-2010, allow me to ask you this.  How far are you willing to push such approaches?  Health care might be one thing.  But what happens when Obama’s commission calls for a reduction in Social Security payouts or another increase in retirement age to qualify for full benefits, all while the War Department spends billions a year on unregulated mercenaries as part of its overseas and domestic campaigns, all while Bush’s tax cuts for the super-rich get extended?  How many of you will continue to stand behind Obama then?  Will you be proud to call yourself a Democrat when a Democratic President does what no Republican President dared to do?  Or will you instead begin to listen to more progressive voices in holding Democrats accountable for their actions in the same way that we wanted Bush and the Republicans accountable for theirs?


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