Posted by: adoseofliberty | December 19, 2009

Commission This

On Tuesday, CNN reported that President Obama is “seriously considering an executive order to create a bipartisan commission that could weigh sweeping tax increases and spending cuts to try to slash the soaring federal deficit.”

According to documents obtained by CNN, top advisers to the president have been “privately weighing various versions of a commission, and opinions differ about how to structure it.”  Some administration members are pushing for a narrow mandate because “it’s too complicated to tackle reform of the tax system and possible spending cuts to various popular programs such as Social Security and Medicare all at once.”  Yes, that would be too difficult, especially because Social Security and Medicare are so “popular” and we all know that “tax reform” these days means figuring out how we are going to screw the country’s business owners, investors, and anyone who happens to have a rich uncle.

“Each major category of fiscal policy — Social Security, Medicare, discretionary spending, revenues — raises a complex and idiosyncratic array of policy problems and prescriptions,” according to the documents detailing some of the administration’s deliberations. “Achieving consensus on any one of these issues — much less all of them simultaneously — may be more than the political system can reasonably accommodate.”

I see.  We’ve grown the entitlement state to the point where each program is its own colossal financial monster, each tangled in its own web of  elaborate, convoluted issues that may be impossible to solve individually, let alone grouped together.  Way to go government.  And as each day passes, the latent problems are expanding and added to, the prospect of success  growing dimmer and dimmer.  Each has become or is becoming a monumental failure.  And on the scale of billions, if not trillions, of dollars, not that anyone cares about these gargantuan numbers anymore.  Regardless, all is not lost, because now we’re going to have a commission take care of it.  The commission will investigate and research each failing fiscal policy category and determine what should be done.  We are Congress, it’s not like making decisions about taxpayer money and managing government programs is our responsibility.

While some critics charge a commission would be a cop-out because it would punt Congressional decisions to an outside panel, the senators pushing the plan believe the current system is broken and it will take a new mechanism to enact the wrenching changes that will be needed to get the budget back into balance.

Yep, those “wrenching” changes.  The ones that need to be made soon because up until now the budget wasn’t important enough to be considered in all of our stimulus and bailouts and endless suctioning of money into the entitlement behemoths.  At least Senator Judd Gregg knows how to speak frankly:

“We are on a path to bankruptcy as a nation, and it’s that simple,” Gregg said last week as he and Conrad officially introduced legislation that now has 33 co-sponsors.

The Conrad-Gregg bill would create a deficit commission with similar numbers of Democrats and Republicans that would investigate the budget problems and vote on a reform package after the midterm elections.  The reform bill “could include dramatic tax hikes and spending cuts.”  With 14 out of 18 votes, there would be an “automatic up-or-down vote in the House and Senate on whether to implement the recommendations.”

If Obama signed an executive order to create the commission, however, it would not have the full force of law and thus the outside commission could not mandate that Congress vote up-or-down on the recommendations. This would also give the president more wiggle room to ignore the recommendations if the commission suggests, for example, raising taxes on people earning less than $250,000 a year, which would break an Obama campaign promise.

Some administration officials also like the executive order idea because it could help the White House place more Obama officials on the commission to give the president more control.

Ah, that would be well played.  Create a powerless commission to do all of the work, then if we don’t like it, no sweat, we just pretend they don’t know what they’re talking about.  And to boot, if we want to avoid involving those pesky Party of ‘No’ Republicans, this way we don’t even have to bother with a bipartisan Congressional commission; we can have our own people, maybe even one of our czars.

But the documents obtained by CNN note that also brings political risk: “The promise of greater say over the deliberations and final product of the commission, but the peril of being more deeply implicated in the event of failure.”

Risk?  I’m sorry.  I think you may be confused with another word that starts with an “r”: Responsibility.  But worry not, the electorate have been listening and are well aware that those two words are interchangeable in Washington.

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