Monday, February 18, 2013

There will be no Grand Bargain

George Will has a new opinion piece on the State of the Union and I wonder if this section is a swipe at Tom Friedman:
First, Obama’s declaration that nothing in his long list of proposed spending “should” — should? — “increase our deficit by a single dime” means there should be commensurate tax increases. Second, now that he has proclaimed that government “must keep the promises we’ve already made,” only the uneducable can still believe he will consider entitlement reforms. Third, by saying spending cuts under the sequester would be “harsh” and would “devastate” domestic programs, he made applesauce of those two words: The cuts would remove only $85 billion from this year’s almost $3.6 trillion budget, and over a decade they would cut just $1.2 trillion from projected spending of $46 trillion. And spending this year would still be well above the post-1945 norm as a percentage of gross domestic product.
Hot Air: "Who's up for another 'Grand Bargain' column from Tom Friedman?"
"That [tax hikes] would have to be married with a long-term fiscal restructuring, written into law, that slows the growth of both Social Security and Medicare entitlements, along with individual and corporate tax reform. Obama has hinted at his willingness to do all of these."
Obama's "brave stands against his own party" are the political equivalent of Beckett's Godot - it never arrives. I've said before that demagoguing entitlements is like crack to the Democrats, a political advantage they'll never give up as we post trillion-dollar deficits forever.  This is why Obama purposely torpedoed the one chance at an agreement.

Despite Tom Friedman's gullibility, there is no path forward for a broad agreement on reducing our debt.  With discretionary spending crowded out, there is not enough taxing and cutting that could stem the rise in entitlement spending.  These programs must be reformed...but they won't when cutting $4/month from Social Security checks is depicted as tossing Grandma over a cliff.

Furthermore, I'm convinced that Obama would never - ever - let himself go down in history as the Democratic President who scaled back on Medicare and Social Security.  Better to leave that heavy lifting to another President.

There will be no Grand Bargain - adjust your plans accordingly.

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