Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Daily Strike-2/18/10-Let's Form a Commission

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. This will be our last entry until Monday. I will be escaping politics this weekend skiing in the Poconos with Lady Strike.

DEFICIT COMMISSION: The President today announced the creation of a bipartisan commission to address the federal deficit. As we mentioned the other day, the President tapped former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson (WY). The commission will function as follows:

-The President will appoint 6 panelists, with no more than 4 from one political party. Basically that means there will be 4 Democrats and 2 Republicans. Obviously, the White House has already chosen two of the panelists.

-The other 12 panelists will be chosen by Congressional leaders. House Democrats, House Republicans, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans will each appoint 3 members.

-14 of the 18 commissioners must agree to the plan for it to move forward. That means that probably 4 Republicans will have to endorse the commission's recommendations.

-The plan must be submitted by December 1st of this year, when it would presumably be presented to Congress for a vote.

I'm very skeptical that this commission will solve our deficit problems. At some point, Congress will have to vote on a package that inevitably will contain massive tax increases (probably including some on the middle class), huge discretionary spending cuts, and decreased entitlements. Congress can't even pass a modest decrease in Medicare as part of a larger health care bill. I just have such little confidence that Congress will ever be able to make tough choices.

I've been adamant that we should not freak out about the deficit during this recession. The best way to cut the deficit is to create jobs, and thus increase tax revenue. Politically, I think people wouldn't worry so much about the deficit if the jobs situation improved. Therefore, I wish the President would create a job-creation commission instead of this commission. At least he should have created both.

CPAC: It's that time of the year, the time when conservatives descend on our nation's capital for the CPAC conference. Today was the first day of the conference, and it featured a star-studded lineup of angry, motivated conservative leaders. Dick Cheney spoke, saying that President Obama is going to be a one-termer. Mitt Romney was there with new Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown. Conservative darling Marco Rubio, the former Republican House Speaker running against moderate Republican Governor Charlie Crist for the United States Senate, gave a generic Republican manifesto speech about cutting taxes and killing terrorists. The conference makes very clear: Republicans are enthusiastic, optimistic and energized now. House Minority Leader John Boehner even started talking about what he would do as House Speaker.

Democrats have no chance of changing the minds of people like those at CPAC. Nor is it likely that they'll do well with independents this year. Their only possible saving grace is to motivate their base. They will have to do that two ways: actually accomplish something legislatively and draw sharp distinctions between ourselves and the Republicans. So far Democrats, from President Obama on down, seem reluctant to take either of these steps.

That's it for tonight. I'll see you on Monday. Congress will come back in session, and we'll have more to talk about.

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