George Will

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the four-term Texas Republican, hopes it is true that, as has been said, Americans invariably do the right thing -- after exhausting all the alternatives. Regarding the fiscal imbalance that is driving the national debt toward 90 percent of gross domestic product, Americans are running out of alternatives.

The [Obama Deficit] commission is not, Hensarling thinks, "well designed for success." Two-thirds of its members were appointed by Democrats, and any recommendations must be supported by 14 members, meaning a minimum of two Republican appointees.

The commission's co-chairman, Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, has suggested that the commission should endorse balancing federal revenue (it has averaged 18 percent of GDP over the past 30 years) and outlays at 21 percent of GDP. Republicans could embrace this because spending is now 25 percent and, under current law, on reasonable assumptions, will reach 35 percent by 2035.

If this is all the commission does, Hensarling says, it may do more harm than good because it will take the focus off the need to address the long-term structural debt caused by [Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security].

I thought this was a forward looking column. While the original purpose of the commission was quite likely to have been largely political -- as commissions so often are, because they allow hard decisions to be kicked down the road to a later election -- Obama's Spending Commission may end up being a political football if Republicans take the House. Republicans will likely try to force spending cuts, a la 1994, and there will be alot of pressure on the commission to try and come up with something palatable. What the commission produces will probably impact how Obama and Republicans are able to to in order to get political traction.

Posted by Evan @ 10/07/10 11:08 PM


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