It seemed like the perfect set-up at the time. After Scott Brown’s election, the White House was scrambling to regain its footing. Finally realizing that the public cared about the galloping national debt and profligate federal deficit spending, President Obama declared, “We must live within our means.”
The irony of this was ignored by the “mainstream” media. Here was the man who had signed a bill that included millions of dollars of earmarks after declaring he would not tolerate them; who engineered a $787 billion “stimulus” bill which did scarcely any economic stimulation or create more than a few jobs. Never mind. His declaration would lead to Congressional planning for a Deficit Reduction Commission. It would be bipartisan (with a majority of Democrats), would deliver its findings before the November election and would require a straight up or down vote.
It took the Republicans awhile to understand that it was a setup. It would no doubt include more new taxes. With an up or down vote, anyone voting against it would be declared to be an opponent of deficit and debt reduction. So, along with some Democratic allies, they killed the bill to create the commission.
No matter, Mr. Obama would create his own commission, by executive order. And he did. It goes by the grand and uplifting name of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. It should probably be called the Trojan Commission.
Its co-chairmen are Erskine Bowles, Democrat and former chief of staff to President Clinton, and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, whose sharp wit is well known in Washington.
In announcing the commission, Mr. Obama said with a straight face, “For far too long Washington has avoided the tough choices necessary to solve our fiscal problems” –as if he had been in the hinterland all this time.
The commission will be comprised of 12 members of Congress, six each appointed by the leaders of their parties in both houses. Six will be appointed by the president, with up to four from his own party. So, expect a commission of 10 Democrats and eight Republicans. Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and, according to the logs, the most frequent visitor to the White House, is almost certainly to be among the Democrats.
The executive order requires the commission to vote on a final report by December 1 and passage will require 14 of the 18 members to vote for it if is to be considered official. This means the Democrats will have to cajole four of the Republicans to join them.
The commission’s declared goal is to” improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run.” It is expected to propose recommendations to balance the budget (excluding interest payments on the national debt) by 2015.
How will they get the Republican votes? Probably by agreeing to such things as raising (in future) the threshold age for Social Security eligibility and curbing the growth of Medicaid.
This is where the Trojan Horse aspect of the Commission comes in. The big trade-off will almost certainly be a Value Added Tax–VAT–which is a sort of super national sales tax. Very popular with the Social Democrats of Europe, it taxes goods at every step of the way, from raw materials obtained, through manufacturing, distribution and retailing. Its rate can be raised administratively. No messy voting.
For tax-loving Democratic legislators it’s a beautiful way to raise gobs of new revenue. Everyone gets to pay it, while those legislators can keep railing about “the wealthy” and Obama can continue to talk about the middle class as if it were sacred and untouchable.