I don’t feel like going point by point through the recommendations put forward by President Obama’s deficit commission appointees Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, mainly because their real goal is to advance conservative ideology; they are a wish-list of horrific, anti-middle class proposals supported by only two men with no real political power. But I do want to highlight their treatment of a robust public health insurance option, a very popular progressive idea that would also have the added benefit of cutting the deficit. It perfectly encapsulates the anti-progressive, anti-middle class, pro-corporatist ideology the “serious” people try to advance using their deficit hysteria.
Simpson and Bowles call directly for freezing military pay, reducing veteran’s benefits, cutting federal employee retirement plans, and imposing tort reform. Yet when it comes to a robust public option, they think it is, at best, one of many ideas that should maybe, possibly be considered in the future only if their other nakedly regressive ideas don’t work. From the report:
If costs have grown faster than targets (on average of previous 5 years), require President to submit and Congress to consider reforms to lower spending, such as:
- Increase premiums (or further increase cost-sharing)
- Overhaul the fee-for-service system
- Develop a premium support system for Medicare
- Add a robust public option and/or all-payer system in the exchange
- Further expand authority of IPAB
They are acknowledging in the report that the CBO has already determined a robust public option would be a significant deficit reducer, but they only include it as a possible back-up idea.
Unlike their proposals for cuts in military pay or veterans’ benefits, a robust public option would not leave regular Americans worse off. In fact, it would reduce the deficit while also helping millions in the middle class reduce the cost of their premiums and get better insurance. In addition, the public option is one of the only deficit reduction ideas that has broad popular support, while almost every other idea they list would face significant popular opposition.
Any legitimate commission actually concerned about the deficit, actually concerned with “ensuring an affordable safety net,” would put at the top of the list of implementable ideas things like a robust public option. The fact that Simpson and Bowles think we should immediately and directly cut benefits to the middle class, but only reconsider the public option if their draconian, anti-working class proposals don’t work, shows the corporatist, classist ideology that drives most of the so-called “serious” debate about the deficit.
Regressive, anti-middle-class cuts are good; progressive programs that help people by preventing big corporations from ripping off the government are bad. This a perfect example of the anti-working class, pro-corporatist ideology that really gets Simpson and the rest of the “deficit hawks” excited. This is not about cutting the deficit; it is about protecting the powerful.