You’ll never guess

They’ve revamped Simpson-Bowles in order to make it even more one-percent friendly! Shh, you’re not supposed to notice:

In truth, the latest Simpson-Bowles “proposal” looks less like a plan and more like a lobbying tactic – one which changes their own position substantially. As President Obama has met the demands for austerity – unwisely, in our opinion – this new move suggests that the demands will just keep escalating. This new plan keeps up the pressure for government spending cuts that heavily outweigh tax revenue increases. And it heavily weighs those revenue increases in a way that would protect the wealthy and corporations while requiring the middle class to carry most of its weight.

As ThinkProgress’ Jeff Spross notes notes, Simpson and Bowles are “moving the goalposts.” Spross comments that their new proposal “adds an additional $2.4 trillion in savings onto the approximately $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction the United States has already carried out since 2010.” He then explains why their new plan “represents a massive shift away from their own previous target and towards even more spending cuts.”

Simpson and Bowles are re-emphasizing another old theme, too. They’re still singing the gospel of revenue increases funded by “closing loopholes,” an amorphous plan that’s likely to hit the middle class with much more force than it would higher earners. They claim that the tax code is “riddled with well over $1 trillion of tax expenditures – which really are just spending by another name.”

And then they repeat their call for lowering tax rates for corporations and the highest-earning individuals.

Their $1-trillion-plus target for “tax expenditure” elimination can only be reached by targeting employer health plans, home mortgage interest deductions, and other policies that would disproportionately hit the already-beleaguered middle class.

That emphasis is in the best interests of Simpson and Bowles’ primary funders, including billionaire Pete Peterson and the large corporations behind an interlocking web of groups such as “Fix the Debt” and “The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.”

Simpson and Bowles are reiterated their call for benefit cuts to Social Security, using the technique known as “chained CPI” to cut that program’s already-inadequate cost of living increases by 3 percent for the average retired recipient, and considerably more for the disabled and the very elderly. This proposal also uses this mechanism to cut federal employee retirement plans and “the farm program.”

Their proposal repeats the mantra that benefit cuts should include “protections for the most vulnerable,” which would repeat earlier definitions of the “vulnerable” that ignore economic realities for most seniors and disabled Americans. The truth is, a large portion of the elderly is already economically vulnerable.



According to the proposed sequester, the FAA is going to face approximately $1 billion in cuts. This could mean a couple of thousand air-traffic controllers could be laid off. Anybody who doesn’t think this will materially affect the way all these people — like, say, me — get their business done hasn’t flown any time in the past 20 years, and is more than welcome to spend eight days in a Chipotle while trying to get from Charlotte to Tucson. There was, I thought, absolutely no way that the people who own both large corporations and the politicians that serve them would allow something like this to happen. Sure, I reasoned, those folks could live very well without, say, the FDA or OSHA. (The rest of us couldn’t, but that’s the way it goes.) But they couldn’t live with things like air travel grinding to a halt.

However, as the government has lurched toward the March 1 deadline, it became clear that I had misapprehended what was really going on. For almost 40 years, both deliberately and by accident, the conservative movement had run against their fanciful notions of what a command economy was, but against the notion of a mixed economy at all. They fashioned a philosophy in which private money and public money were best left apart from each other. They created a view of the how the country operates that was laissez faire in ridiculous extreme. They have convinced themselves that any mixing of public and private money is invariably destructive to the latter to the benefit of the former. (That this rarely in their minds applied to military spending is beside the point for the moment, and will continue to be, because I still believe that there is absolutely no way the defense-related sequester cuts happen.) What you are seeing now is the blank wall at the end of the ideological blind alley down which the conservative movement has frolicked since the day Ronald Reagan told us that government really was the problem.

Without the involvement of government, the planes don’t fly. Or, at best, they fly into each other, which is bad for business. Without the involvement of government, the trucks have no highways on which to roll. Break faith in the covenant of a mixed economy and you wind up with no economy at all. If the corporate class in this country still took pride in, you know, making stuff, instead of banking profits by shuffling paper around on Wall Street, it would crack the whip in 10 minutes on this foolishness. Alas, even that check-and-balance exercise is gone now. I really thought that mutual self-interest would win the day.

Silly me.

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