Thingish Things

Blue-Ribbon Blues

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Feb• 14•11

President Obama Creates The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform

Where does all the blue ribbon in Washington go after it’s torn from the doors of  discarded commissions?  Is there a federal ribbon depository, or does the same worn spool get trotted out over and over again?

It’s a question that should be answered, because the number of revolving-door blue ribbon panels in Washington has reached the point where a commission might reasonably be created to look into them.

They all begin the same way:  The panel is unveiled. It is bright, shiny, and brimming with hope, purpose, and names.  We know in our hearts it is a show pony, but we fall for it anyway.  Maybe, just maybe, this commission will gallop through the gates and take off, we tell ourselves. Our hopes grow; promising recommendations are made.  And then “poof”, like Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects,  “it’s gone.”

The latest blue ribbon panel to vanish along with its recommendations is the President’s much-heralded, bi-partisan “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.”  Remember that one — the one headed late last year, around election time, by  former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson (R) and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskin Bowels (D)?

After dutifully criss-crossing the country for eight months and interviewing every economic expert willing to look into a camera, the Commission concluded thusly in the preamble to its 65-page report, compellingly titled, The Moment of Truth:

“Together, we have reached these unavoidable conclusions:  The problem is real.  The solution will be painful.  There is no easy way out.  Everything must be on the table.  And Washington must lead.

“…After all the talk about debt and deficits, it is long past time for America’s leaders to put up or shut up.  The era of debt denial is over, and there can be no turning back.”

The remaining 64 pages spell out why Social Security and Medicare – the so-called non-discretionaries – have to be reformed if the country is to avoid utter fiscal collapse. The Moment of Truth was delivered to President Obama in December.

Fewer than 60 days later, the President has unveiled his 2011 Budget Proposal. It is bereft in tone and substance from anything his panel recommended.

Another one bites the dust.

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  1. Your Friend says:


    You may have missed the feature in the NYT back in November where they created a tool that allows readers to fix the budget. It’s surprisingly simple to fix, especially if you cut a little bit from everything. As you can see if you do it yourself, it does not require Social Security and Medicare to be overhauled, just some minor tweaks like whitholding Social Security payments from high net worth individuals. As you might guess, I went heavy on cuts to the military which eliminates nearly half of the deficit over the next five years, but you can slice it up in all kinds of ways. Try it, it’s fun!

    On a blue ribbon panel note, it has always been thus. Don’t forget your history. And on the panel in question, they looked at the budget much like the NYT tool, proposing that everything needed to be cut, not just Social Security and Medicare — “They decided to cut the pay of federal workers over the next several years, close military bases, reduce foreign aid, eliminate earmarks, expand the payroll tax and cut Social Security benefits for high earners.” Perhaps you’re cherry-picking issues that really matter to you, at least a little bit.

    The real problem is that cutting too much from the budget now will stall the economy and cost us more in the long run. The last thing we need is Japan-style deflation. I’m sure the merits of this thinking are argued in political circles, but it’s settled law in economics.


    – d

  2. I did see that, but didn’t play. And yes, I am absolutely cherry-picking. Could be alternate name for the site!

    I’d be inclined to bump the retirement age up and return education to localities. But doing nothing is madness.

    • Your Friend says:

      There’s a lot of talk about cutting the deficit now that we should have been having during the last administration. You make money by selling high, so coming out of the Clinton years, in a surplus, was the time to attack the deficit. Instead the money went to huge tax cuts for me and our friends. Not good policy. Policy focus should be on getting the economy hot again which will give us the tools to attack the deficit. If we attack the deficit now, sell low, we will only deflate the economy. FDR made this mistake coming out of the GD.

      Education can’t be any more in the realm of the localities than it is right now. My town just submitted a $70M school budget. It’s a lot of money and we’re all worried about balancing the needs of the kids against the fiscal soundness of the community. But the money for that budget comes from local taxes, not the federal government. If we’re lucky, we may get a tiny sliver of Race to the Top, but that’s nothing in relation to the budget.

  3. […] spending programs like Social Security and Medicare – as his much-hyped bi-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform directly challenged him to do 48 days ago – here’s what the President […]

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