In his Forbes column this week, Bruce Bartlett explains how to set up a deficit-reduction commission who can speak the real truth and thus come up with real solutions. Bruce’s key recommendations (emphasis added):
In my opinion, the commission should have no members of Congress at all among its members. Former politicians with no further political ambitions would be far better suited to the task. They can speak the truth in a way no sitting member can about things like putting higher taxes on the table as part of a deficit reduction package…
I believe that a deficit reduction target should be specified–$X trillion over 10 years with, say, a third coming from higher revenues, a third from entitlements and a third from discretionary spending. In particular, unless Congress commits itself in advance to raising taxes then I think the whole exercise will be for naught because that will be the toughest nut to crack.
It’s unrealistic to think that a budget commission is going to find some painless way of reducing benefits and raising taxes–taking real dollars out of people’s pockets. If Congress acknowledges this fact up front then I think there is a much better chance that the commission will be able to come up with the best ways of doing so.
And in the cover story of this week’s National Journal magazine (“The Debt Problem Is Worse Than You Think” by John Maggs), Bill Gale doesn’t seem to have much faith in President Obama’s willingness to level with the American public either. The story’s closing paragraph (emphasis added):
Not coincidentally, 1990 to ‘92 was a time when difficult decisions on fiscal and monetary policy converged. While Congress and President George H.W. Bush were reaching a budget deal in 1990, Fed Chairman Greenspan was resisting pressure from the White House to lower interest rates. Greenspan sensed inflationary pressure in the pipeline, and he held off. The result was a recession that surely cost Bush a second term. Likewise, tougher stances on fiscal policy can have electoral consequences. Voters then were also angry that in reaching a budget deal in 1990, Bush broke his vow of no tax hikes. Gale says that Obama will similarly have to go back on his promise to protect the middle class from tax increases, if he is to have any chance of getting a handle on the deficit. “Do I expect that [soon]? No.”