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The Republicans on the deficit commission are more conservative than the Democrats are liberal

Here are the legislators serving on the president's deficit commission: For the Democrats, Kent Conrad, Max Baucus, and Dick Durbin are representing the Senate, and Xavier Becerra, Jan Schakowsky, and John Spratt are representing the House. For the Republicans, Mitch McConnell sent over Judd Gregg, Tom Coburn, and Mike Crapo, while John Boehner deputized Paul Ryan, Jeb Hensarling, and Dave Camp. (Head here for their bios, and everyone else on the commission.) Something you may notice: The Republicans are much more conservative than the Democrats are liberal.

This becomes very clear if you run the numbers. I used the DW-NOMINATE rankings to figure out where the various members stood in relation to their colleagues. Max Baucus, for instance, is the 51st most liberal member of the Senate, while Tom Coburn is the least liberal -- which is to say, most conservative -- member of the Senate. Then I averaged out the rankings of each group. The results were telling.

The Senate Democrats on the commission equal out to position 35 -- that is to say, there are more than 30 Democrats who are more liberal than the deficit commission team, which means the deficit commission team is a bit more conservative than the average Senate Democrat. Not so for the Republicans. They average out to position 94. That is to say, there are only a handful of Republicans more conservative than this group. So on the Senate side, the Democrats are a bit less liberal than the average Democrat and the Republicans are a lot more conservative than the average Republican.

The story on the House side is a bit more muted: The Democrats end up in position 84. The Republicans end up in position 384. That means there are more than 80 Democrats who are more liberal than the Democrats' deficit commission group, and about 50 Republicans more conservative than the Republican contingent. As Democrats control more seats than Republicans do, this means the House Republicans are only slightly more conservative than the House Democrats are liberal.

The point here isn't to allege bad faith on either side: Democrats picked the Democrats and Republicans chose the Republicans. But the result is more ideological moderates on the Democrats' side than on the Republican side. That may not be a surprise: Republicans filibustered the creation of this commission because they didn't want to compromise on taxes, and so when Obama outmaneuvered them and created the commission anyway, they sent people not likely to compromise on taxes. On the Democratic side, Nancy Pelosi sent people who weren't likely to compromise on benefit cuts, and Harry Reid sent people who were interested in cutting a grand bargain on the budget.

What will this all mean? Who knows? The commission hasn't issued their report yet, and they may surprise us, or find themselves unable to come to any agreement at all. But it's worth being aware of these dynamics beforehand.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 30, 2010; 2:27 PM ET
Categories:  Budget  
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For many years, people making lesss than the earnings cap have been "loaning" money to the general budget for defense etcetera. If you eliminate the cap, then people earning above that level will begin "loaning" this money, too. It's about time. And as Dylan Matthews previously showed, this would put social security on sound footing for 75 years.

Posted by: pjro | August 30, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

With Alan "Yeah, I'm a horse's _ss, what about it?" Simpson leading the charge for the Republithugs, I don't have much hope for anything reasonable here. However, I'm sure the MSM will figure out some reason why the commission's failure is the Democrat's fault.

Posted by: guesswhosue | August 30, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

There are two types of scenarios that tend to cause all Americans to be more conservative and more averse to risk:

1. Terrorists commit an act that kills thousands of Americans

2. Our government finds itself with record deficits at a time when 10% of working Americans cannot find jobs.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | August 30, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Conservatives are much more liberal than liberals are conservative.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | August 30, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Fast Eddie, that's very close to being a haiku. It's devoid of any real content, but very close to poetic.

Posted by: MosBen | August 30, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

"For many years, people making lesss than the earnings cap have been "loaning" money to the general budget for defense etcetera. If you eliminate the cap, then people earning above that level will begin "loaning" this money, too. It's about time. And as Dylan Matthews previously showed, this would put social security on sound footing for 75 years."

Actually, no. People making over the earnings cap are still loaning the full amount of the FICA tax up to the cap.

Posted by: krazen1211 | August 30, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

And with Obama having appointed some very conservative people, the Commission just about tilts off the table.

This whole exercise just baffles me. Why don't the rich just set up huge vacuum cleaners in every city and just vacuum up what little the rest of us have and be done with it? Would that finally make them stop whining?

Posted by: Mimikatz | August 30, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Any moderate is a far right conservative to Klein. He should just continue his behind the scenes coordination of talking points between the White House, Democrats, the MSM and liberal blogosphere at whatever the successor site he has created after closing down Journolist.

He is just a far left writer, certainly not a journalist, that spins the story of the day given him by Axelrod.

Posted by: georgiarat | August 31, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

If Social Security funds were in the lock box and not available to the general fund, it would have a surplus. Even as it is there is plenty for the next twenty years when the baby boom drain will be over. Imagine what would have happened if Bush had succeeded in turning over the system to his Buds on Wall Street. I, for one, would be under the bridge.

Posted by: LillithMc | August 31, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

When republicans are in charge they did what they do and shifted the burden onto the middle class to pay SS. The dems should just raise taxes on the wealthy to pay SS and if republicans want to cut benefits let them do that when they are charge. Why would democrats do the republicans job for them? its as if the dems want to help repubs with this issue.

Posted by: eraske1 | September 2, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

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