In trying to make a quick understanding of the Boehner counter-offer on the fiscal slope yesterday, I knew that his reference to the “Bowles plan” was not a reference to Bowles-Simpson but rather something Bowles wrote or said in November 2011. It turns out that it came from testimony before the failed Super Committee, where Bowles basically spitballed a reform measure totaling $2 trillion by averaging out each sides’ initial offers. Boehner’s now treating something described this way as a serious plan:
Mr. BOWLES: You all are between $250 and $400 billion of additional cuts on discretionary, so I assumed that we could reach a compromise of an additional $300 billion on discretionary spending cuts.
On health care you are somewhere between $500 and $750 billion of additional health care cuts. I assumed that we could get to $600, and I got there by increases in the eligibility age for Medicare that I discussed with Senator Kerry when he was talking to me. That is about $100 billion. That would take you from the 500 where the Democrats are to $600 billion, and it happens to come not on the provider side, which I think would kind of balance that out.
On other mandatory cuts, you are somewhere between 250 and 400, so I settled on 300 there, and we had enough cuts in our plan to get you to 300 on the other mandatory….You agreed actually on CPI in your two plans of approximately $200 billion.
….That gets me to revenue. And on revenue I took the number that the Speaker of the House, I had read had actually agreed to, and I was able to generate $800 billion through revenue from the Speaker’s recommendation.
While Bowles arrived at his figures by including an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and a move to the chained CPI, not just for Social Security but apparently all social benefits with a cost-of-living adjustment, none of that appeared in the three-page Boehner letter. However, after the fact, GOP aides, speaking anonymously on background, said this was implicitly part of the Bowles plan that Boehner endorsed.