Friday, February 19, 2010

Bipartisan Commission To Tackle Social Security, Medicare

In the wake of the failure by Congress to agree to a binding commission to restore fiscal stability by recommending changes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, President Barack Obama has established by executive order the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

Mr. Obama has appointed former Republican Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton to head the 18-member commission. Other members will be chosen as follows:

  • six members appointed by Mr. Obama, not more than four of whom are from one political party, presumably Democrats;

  • three Senators selected by Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev);

  • three Representatives selected by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Cal;

  • three members selected by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ken.); and
    three members selected by House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio).

In January, Congress failed to agree to establish the Bipartisan Task Force For Responsible Fiscal Action Act Of 2010. The proposal, introduced as an amendment to H.J.Res.45 (P.L. 111-139, which increased the statutory limit on the public debt), was introduced by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), but it failed to garner the necessary 60 votes for passage.
That task force would have been able to make recommendations to Congress that would have to be voted on without amendment.  The President’s Commission has no binding effect on Congress.

The President’s Commission specifically is charged with making “recommendations designed to balance the budget, excluding interest payments on the debt, by 2015. This result is projected to stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio at an acceptable level once the economy recovers.… In addition, the Commission shall propose recommendations that meaningfully improve the long-run fiscal outlook, including changes to address the growth of entitlement spending and the gap between the projected revenues and expenditures of the Federal Government.”

Even before members have been appointed, both liberals and conservatives are dooming the work, with the left warning of ominous cuts to programs with Mr. Simpson as chair, and the right predicting nothing but tax increases with a Democratic-controlled commission.

As I already have suggested, cuts to programs and increases in taxes actually are the only solutions.

In an interview, Mr. Simpson also noted that increases in payroll taxes and decreases in benefits as the only legitimate methods to rein in entitlement programs.  And he correctly labeled any attempts to ignore these solutions:

“But the rest of it is B.S. And if the people are really ingesting B.S. all day long, their grandchildren will be picking grit with the chickens.”


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