Barack Obama has always been good at forming commissions and advisory panels. His record is dismal when it comes to taking leadership for what those commissions recommend. None of us are surprised by this; in every single instance, when Presidential leadership was called for, Obama failed to step up and seize the day. Whether it was allowing Reid and Pelosi to write the Health care bill, or allowing his liberal friends in Congress to write the pork barrel stimulus plan, or assuming responsibility for Benghazi, or IRS harassment, or AP reporter wire tapping, or even the VA health care tragedy, Obama trots out a martyr and executes him on the spot.
But even with all of Obama's massive fails, he had one grand chance to write his name into the history books; not as the worst President in our history, but as someone courageous enough to stop the explosive growth of the national debt and create an honest and fair tax system.
Upon taking office Obama proposed a commission that would look at all federal spending, at our tax laws, at how we manage federal programs and how to fix them. The bi-partisan Simpson-Bowles commission was made up of both Republicans and Democrats and headed by retired Republican Senator Alan Simpson and former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
So the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform got to work in 2010. They enlisted the finest tax and finance minds in the nation to come up with a plan that would improve the efficiency of federal programs, find new sources of revenue that would not stunt the economy, identify cuts that could be made while still providing a reasonable social safety net for those in poverty, and identify methodologies to reduce the massive national debt.
They hosted dozens of working conferences, picked the minds of some of the smartest folks in the nation, both liberal and conservative, then sat down and wrote a report that would please no one but would demand compromise for both sides of the Congressional aisle. The plan proved to be so fair that everybody hated something about it.
Without trying to laundry list everything, here's some of the broader guidelines: Simpson-Bowles would have lowered the tax rates for everyone making less than $250,000 dollars but would have broadened the base so that more citizens would be paying something. It would have eliminated the mortgage interest on 2nd homes and capped mortgage interest deduction at one million a year. It would have raised the age qualification for Social Security to 68 in the year 2050 and 69 in the year 2075, bringing the retirement age more in keeping with current death rates and it would have reduced tax free Social Security payments for those making more than $100,000 dollars a year. It would have reduced corporate taxation from the current 35% to 15% BUT it would have neutered all those K Street lobbyists my eliminating thousands of corporate tax loopholes that allow companies like G.E. from paying taxes on $14 billion dollars in revenue!
All told, Simpson Bowles would have cut "tax welfare" for both corporations and those with extreme wealth. For example, billionaires like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates would no longer be entitled to Medicare. Their social security payments would be taxed as part of their total income which pretty well nullifies payout to those who have absolutely no need for those payments.
Entitlement payouts would be cut at a 2 to 1 ratio to revenue increases. For every dollar in revenue increases the government must make two dollars in entitlement cuts....and to insure Democrats can't weasel their way out making cuts (as they did with Reagan...and Bush 1 in 1989) mandates were included in Simpson Bowles that would have triggered even larger entitlement cuts if liberals tried to legislate away the agreed cuts. Any variation in the tax to entitlement ratios would require a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress, something that is impossible in today's political world.
Simpson Bowles would not only have produced a balanced budget but would have reduced the national debt by $4 trillion dollars over a ten year period! So the 18 members on the commission voted. Eleven supported the plan and 7 opposed. The plan needed three more votes to meet the agreed upon plan for implementation. A couple of phone calls to his Democratic comrades, maybe one small bribe; a transit system or an auto plant in the member's homes state. (ala Obmacare) and the plan gets passed. And Obama stayed silent!
Barack Obama heard the screams of radical liberal economist Paul Krugman, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, the Congressional Black Caucus and an army of liberals hell bent on implementing an American socialist system. So Obama stayed quiet. And Simpson-Bowles died an early death...and the national debt has added another $5 trillion dollars, and ten million people have left the work force, and Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid are schedule to go broke in 2020 and our tax system is still in existence to protect the wealthy and punish the working class...and millionaires are still writing off billions in second homes in the Hamptons, and G.E. has still not paid a dime in taxes, and working Americans are suffering.
Ironically members of Congress on both sides of the aisle still look longingly at Simpson Bowles. Even Nancy Pelosi is for it now and four of those who voted against Simpson Bowles now say they would vote for it now. But the plan failed, vetoed by Democrats and Republicans...and if Obama had just picked up the phone and did a little jawboning, if he had ignored the extreme left wing of his party and stood up and did what was good for everybody, but most of all, for our country...he might at least earn a footnote in the history books.
Instead, the "man-child" did what he has always done...he went and hid, wrung his hands in a false note of frustration and left the best plan ever conceived to fix our tax and entitlement system to die a tragic death.
I didn't like some of Simpson Bowles..but I liked a lot of it...which, as others have said, proves just how fair it was to both sides. And many in Washington, as they look at the growing deficit and programs nearing bankruptcy, are now liking the plan more and more. But the "man-child" had a golf date, or a trip to Hawaii planned, and simply couldn't be bothered.
Sad. Damned Sad...just does not seem enough to describe this massive fail.