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Richard Eskow, Campaign for America's Future blogsite, yesterday.
With a few selected phrases, President Obama and former President Clinton appeared to endorse this tiny faction's recovery-crushing austerity approach last week in Charlotte. But the rest of their speeches, along with others given at the convention, were a strong rejection of the privately-authored set of policy proposals known as "Simpson-Bowles."
That's good, since Simpson-Bowles so closely resembles the Republican Party Platform that the Democrats could wind up running against themselves.
Voters should embrace the Democrats' stirring anti-austerity rhetoric. They should also encourage Democratic leaders to embrace their own rhetoric, to stop 'triangulating' themselves into invisibility and speak plainly and directly to the American people:
In other words, Democrats should say they oppose any cuts to Medicare or Social Security benefits. They should say they'll use government resources to create and protect the jobs we need - for teachers, firefighters and police officers, among others. And that the face facts and address the real cause of the government's long-term budget deficit.
This small circle is pushing a clear, simple program: Even lower tax rates for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Benefit cuts to Social Security, along with changes to Medicare that (especially in today's political climate) would cause its slow deterioration and eventual collapse. Limits on how much money the government can spend, irrespective of the need at any given time.
If you think that looks a lot like Paul Ryan's budget, which is now the GOP's official budget, or like the Republican platform, you're right. Even the GOP's lower tax rates for millionaires and billionaires are in the Simpson-Bowles proposal.
Is that what President Obama was endorsing when he said these words? "I’m still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission." (That commission actually deadlocked and failed to issue any conclusions; he is referring to a document which was privately prepared by Simpson and Bowles, its two co-chairs.)
Or what Bill Clinton was endorsing when he spoke of "the kind of balanced approach proposed by the Simpson-Bowles Commission, a bipartisan commission (sic)"?
The Simpson-Bowles tax plan is very similar to the one Bill Clinton was mocking last week when he talked about those unspecified "I'll tell you after the election" loopholes President Obama made fun of this policy too: “Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another."
Joe Biden said "President Obama knows that creating jobs in America, keeping jobs in America, bringing jobs back to America is what the president's job is all about." And that was after his moving tribute to his wife's work as a teacher - which is, after all, a government-funded job.
And just two weeks ago Joe Biden told some older voters in a Virginia diner that he could "flat guarantee" there would be no changes to Social Security if he and the President were re-elected.
So why did the President, former President Clinton, and Vice President Joe Biden all name-check Simpson-Bowles last week?
You'll have to ask them. But maybe the plan has become a kind of political Rorschach test, a shapeless inkblot meant to conjure up "reasonableness."