The myth of commissions
The theory that bipartisan commissions will make all of our hard decisions for us relies on the experience of the Greenspan Commission in the ’80s, which put Social Security on a sounder footing. But according to Robert Ball, who helped run that commission, it was going to be a total failure -- until the president and the congressional leadership stepped into the breach:
In a sprightly account promoted by former staff members from both parties, Mr. Ball calls the Greenspan Commission a failure. As he tells it, only a willingness to compromise by the two principal antagonists of the time — Ronald Reagan, the Republican president, and Representative Thomas P. O’Neill, the Democratic House speaker — made it possible for Mr. Ball and a few others to salvage from the deadlocked panel a deal that raised payroll taxes and trimmed benefits enough to keep Social Security solvent.
“A commission is no substitute for principled commitment,” wrote Mr. Ball, who died two years ago at 93. He expected that growing deficits soon would spur talk of another such panel. “Above all,” he added, “we should not allow ourselves to fall into the trap of expecting miracles from another Greenspan Commission — by deluding ourselves into believing, mistakenly, that the first one was a great success.”
You can't govern this country if the party that doesn't control the White House simply refuses to give the party that does control the White House any accomplishments.
January 19, 2010; 3:19 PM ET
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