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February 17, 2011

Bipartisan Group of Senators Very Close To Reaching Agreement To Have Discussion About Potential Future Conversation About Possibly Beginning Dialogue About Agreeing to Suggest Changes To Spending and Entitlements

Allah had this first. His headline was upbeat so just to be different I have to be different.

Anyway: On the one hand, they're trying for some grand compromise, and out and proud liberals like Dick Durbin, and rock-ribbed conservatives like Tom Coburn, are in the mix.

On the downside, this is framed as again a "start of the conversation," and that "conversation" is like most other "conversations," that is, a bullshit session. There is a difference between action and "conversation," of course.

We need presidential leadership on this issue and of course President Present has fled the capitol so that we have no quorum. Just like (despised) 1990 Bush Tax Deal could not have happened without the president leading the charge, neither can this happen with President Present deciding to take a wait-and-see attitude until after the elections.

Obama's Deficit Reduction Panel was just a delaying tactic on this point -- he created the panel to buy time, so he could avoid questions while they "had a conversation" on the issues. When they finally presented their work, he again refused to endorse it. He did, however, say that we should "have a conversation" about the conversations the panel had already had.

So now we have another attempt at a conversation. 40 other senators, we are told, are interested in this conversation. One element of the conversation will be a panel that rewrites and reforms the tax code for two years (having a two year conversation about that), and when they're done with their work, presumably we can have a conversation about that. And then, I suppose, we can also have a conversation about the other elements, slashing spending and reforming entitlements.

It seems everyone in Washington is ready to "have a conversation" about spending cuts and entitlement reform. What they are not willing to do, however, is have a vote.

So here's the latest conversation we're going to have. In like two years or something we can then have further conversations about these conversations.

And meanwhile we will spend, spend, spend, and delay making necessary changes.

The plan would break the task of deficit reduction into four pieces: a tax code overhaul; discretionary spending cuts; changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements; and changes to Social Security, aides said. The Social Security system is on firmer financial footing than other major entitlement programs and raises political sensitivities that lawmakers want to deal with separately.

The proposal builds on the work of President Barack Obama's deficit commission, according to aides working on it.

"We're getting close," said Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D., Ill.), one of six senators working on the plan. "We understand that if we're going to do something that's important, it has to be timely." He said the group hopes to reach agreement "in a matter of weeks, or months."

Who's in the group? Coburn, Durbin, and Conrad, who decided to run no more so he could honestly grapple with the problem.

The problem is, we already knew these three guys were working on it. How about anyone else?

...

The proposal came up in a White House meeting Wednesday among Democratic leaders. A White House spokeswoman said the President is committed to finding "an effective and balanced approach to reducing the deficit" and "beginning a conversation on entitlement reform."

Awesome. Can't wait to "begin a conversation" about something flagged as a ticking time bomb in the eighties.

Yes, the eighties. We've been having this "conversation" about the fundamental problem with entitlements (basically, everything about the spending aspect of them grows far, far more quickly than the population or wealth level supporting them) but okay, I guess now we're going to begin it again.

...

The Senate group's working plan calls for placing separate caps on security and nonsecurity spending, and missing a budget target in one area would not trigger mandatory cuts in the other. The spending targets would follow proposals laid out by the deficit commission, which recommended cutting discretionary spending by $1.7 trillion through 2020. Lawmakers on the spending committees would draft legislation to meet the targets. But if they were not met, automatic, across-the-board cuts would go into effect.

The tax-writing committees would be given two years to overhaul both the individual and corporate tax codes, with general instructions to close tax breaks and minimize or eliminate tax deductions while lowering tax rates. The committees would be given a target for additional revenues to be raised by the new code. The deficit commission's version of tax reform would net $180 billion in additional revenues over 10 years.

If Congress failed to enact the tax code overhaul, the legislation would mandate an across-the-board tightening of tax deductions to meet the higher target.

The article doesn't say, but this to me implies yet another two-year delay in actually having this conversation -- since this is a Grand Bargain, then we won't have an actual vote until the tax reform commission finishes its work, after Obama has been safely re-elected. How convenient.

The effort is mostly just triggers mandating spending cuts if Congress fails to work the stipulated cuts into law. Which, by the way, can always be repudiated by majority vote -- just like we supposedly started cutting Medicare reimbursments to doctors in 1994 or so but every year, without fail, have passed a "DocFix" putting those cuts off.

So yes, please, let's give Obama two years more time to vote present. And let's all pretend that the next Congress will somehow have the will and wisdom do do what no Congress has done thusfar.

We've been talking about this since ALF debuted on TV. But by all means, let's take another two years to talk about it some more, and we'll begin that conversation in earnest in two years, and sure, this time we'll do more than have a nice conversation about it.

I believe that. I'm a spazz. I believe everything.

Let me say it: I'm against it, entirely. All I see here is political cover for Obama. More political cover, I should say. He already had his year-long stall.

I will be very angry if Tom Coburn gives him another two-year stall, just because they're buddies.

That is all commissions are. Stalling tactics. Lies. A commission is a way to avoid action, not take it. That is how they are always used. Always.

If we're not going to take action, then I want the public to know we've decided against the action without the lie (which benefits incumbents, Obama most of all) that we're "beginning a conversation about starting a dialogue about initiating a discussion" about the problem.

There is no voting present. Either yes or no. If you're against spending cuts and entitlement reform, and therefore in favor of bankruptcy and ruin, then vote that way. Stand and be counted. No more hiding behind commissions and conversations.


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posted by Ace at 05:28 PM

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