Alan Simpson has a problem with Max Baucus. He talks too damn much about “balance.”
“He’s chairman of the Finance Committee and feels a competition with Kent Conrad, which is not good, because Conrad moves and does things, and Max is just holding back,” Simpson said. “He didn’t come to many of our meetings. And when he did, he simply said we have to collect taxes that we haven’t collected, and he’s talking about balance and this and that, but I say to my friend Max, boy, I don’t know how helpful that’s going to be.”
Yes, it certainly won’t be helpful to the dream of taking three hundred million people off the government tit.
To be fair, Simpson criticized the Republican picks for the Catfood Commission II as well, because of their ideological disinclination to support tax increases. He would have preferred some members of the Gang of Six on the panel. He did say he liked John Kerry on there, which should scare everyone.
For his part, Sen. Harry Reid said on a conference call that the recommendations from the committee must have some fairness, which he took to mean that “Rich people are going to have to give up a little. Some of their tax goodies. You can’t do it with just spending.” His picks for the committee certainly reflected that.
However, looking at who will be on the Catfood Commission II and what they’re like kind of misses the point. The committee is its own problem, as Ari Berman points out.
The super-committee itself is a profoundly conservative and anti-Democratic entity, immune from public pressure and tasked with deciding between two bad choices—a so-called grand bargain that would significantly reduce the social safety net vs. deep across the board cuts at a time of economic peril. The idea of doing anything to stimulate the economy is totally absent from its purview. The scope of the committee itself, rather than who’s on it, is the real problem.
There’s no good outcome here. Either we get a pathetically bad grand bargain that probably has no revenues to speak of, or we get sequestration. The hilarious outcome would be a deal at the end of 2012 to extend the Bush tax cuts in exchange for canceling the trigger cuts, which would absolutely explode the deficit but make a lot of people in Washington happy. But either way, we’re not getting a jobs committee to recommend job creation measures that will go to the Congress for an up or down vote. As Joseph Stiglitz writes today, this is clearly the optimal policy, the one that helps the greatest number of people, which is why I guess it won’t be adopted.