Bipartisan fetishists everywhere poured a little out, after Sen. Tom Coburn quit the Gang of Six deficit reduction talks. The impasse, according to Coburn, came over entitlement cuts.
This is the second “Gang of Six” since the beginning of the Obama Administration to waste months of time without accomplishing anything. At the beginning of the health care debate, Max Baucus spent months trying to get three Republicans to agree to a compromise position before finally abandoning the negotiations. Now, the Gang of Six, which included four members of the cat food commission (Crapo, Coburn, Conrad and Durbin), Mark Warner and Saxby Chambliss, has basically broken up after months of discussion about reducing budget deficits. Kent Conrad is putting forward his own budget in the Senate, and instead of reaching out to Republicans, he’s trying to get Democrats on the Budget Committee like Bernie Sanders to agree to it so he can pass it. The proposal apparently includes a millionaire’s surtax, for that very purpose.
Tom Coburn was simply never going to agree to a global deal on the budget. I don’t see how Chambliss and Crapo will either. There is a fundamental difference in philosophy. Coburn was at least willing to talk about spending in the tax code, but if he backed off, then there’s almost nobody left on the Republican side willing to see an increase in revenue as part of an overall deal.
With the demise of the Gang of Six, I’d say it’s time to shift into Plan B. It’s time to do nothing, let gridlock take its course, and allow the Bush tax cuts to expire. This would raise just as much money in the first decade as any of the deficit reduction plans out there. There’s a legitimate argument that we just shouldn’t be doing anything to reduce overall demand right now, but the tax cuts won’t expire until 2013. And it’s a far preferable outcome to cutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, or whatever other horrible idea is out there. If the incessant cries about the deficit must continue, fine. Sign me up for the “Do Nothing” deficit reduction plan.
UPDATE: Coburn reportedly wanted to put a global Medicare spending cap that would have immediately cut $150 billion from current retirees. Keep that in mind next time you see Republicans talk about “protecting Medicare.”