Peter Diamond

Peter Diamond, co-author of the Diamond-Orszag which cuts Social Security benefits

It is amazing to watch how desperate some of the so-called “deficit hawks” are to cut Social Security and Medicare. Peter Diamond wants to see these programs cut so badly that he is effectively advocating we sacrifice the core principles of democracy just to make it happen.

In his New York Times Op-Ed, Diamond says we should take the constitutionally provided power to legislate away from Congress and instead give it to unelected panels:

What we need, instead, is a set of narrowly targeted commissions, each with a clearly articulated task and the ability to require a no-amendments, up-or-down vote — and all without sitting members of Congress. Like the base-closure commissions, the panels could include former members of Congress, tax and budget experts, and representatives from the business and public-interest community.

Diamond cites the base closing commission but that is a relatively small issue with very specific parochial concerns. It is something radically different to give unelected panels with zero democratic authority power over every aspect of our economy.

The whole reason Diamond wants this unelected panel is because he thinks regular American voters would oppose the decisions these panels would reach:

Congress, with its eyes on 2014 and beyond, can’t take the risks involved with genuine reform. Limits on total spending and tax revenues are too likely to be changed by future Congresses when they are required to deal with the unspecified details needed to fit within those limits. [...]

And even if a deal comes together, grand bargains reached by sitting members of Congress are likely to be revised and further watered down just as the sequester will not happen as it was legislated last August. Members of Congress are concerned with the good of the country, as they see it, and the election and re-election of themselves and members of their parties. The presence of both concerns complicates deal making and may prevent it completely.

This is not a flaw with the system, this is how democracy is supposed to work.

Representatives aren’t supposed to pass laws their constituents would overwhelming oppose. If unpopular law is enacted the electorate should be able to elect a new congress to repeal it. Members of congress should be afraid they will lose their election if they pass unpopular laws, that is the essence of democratic accountability. It is because they are directly selected by the voters and they are constantly held accountable that members of Congress are the only people given the awesome power to write our laws.

Instead, Diamond wants us to throw the constitution and our basic principles of democracy out the window just so his preferred actions can be forced on a population that doesn’t support them. It is always amazing to me how some “serious people” feel no shame about advocating  for radically anti-democratic ideas.