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Obama throws his fiscal commissioners under the bus [updated]

By Stephen Stromberg

The co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, which President Obama convened to recommend viable ways to fix America's finances, produced an ambitious plan Wednesday afternoon. It would decrease Social Security cost of living increases, cut discretionary spending -- including on defense -- raise the gas tax, eliminate the mortgage-interest tax deduction, press down health costs and other difficult things. In return, though, the government would run drastically smaller deficits -- an enviable 2.2 percent of GDP by 2015 -- and gradually reduce the total national debt.

Other members of the fiscal commission are already attacking the report, and since the politics of the deficit are currently dysfunctional, none of this looks likely to see the approval of either Congress or the full commission.

But what of president Obama? Would he at least acknowledge that these were the sorts of tough choices he and Congress should be examining? Or would he throw his co-chairs under the bus, too? This just arrived in my inbox, from White House spokesman Bill Burton:

The president will wait until the bipartisan fiscal commission finishes its work before commenting. He respects the challenging task that the co-chairs and the commissioners are undertaking and wants to give them space to work on it. These ideas, however, are only a step in the process towards coming up with a set of recommendations and the president looks forward to reviewing their final product early next month.

So Obama doesn't want to have anything to do with this report. But he will leave it to the commission to repudiate Wednesday's recommendations, which should make it easier for the president to ignore the difficult stuff. He's all but begging the fiscal commission for its work to be inadequate. Inspiring.

Update, 11:30 a.m.: Matt Miller has a thought-provoking piece up on the fiscal commission co-chairs' report, arguing that their proposal to keep federal spending at 21 percent of GDP is a fantasy. Starting from a different place ideologically, Adam Serwer also argues that the co-chairs favor tough/impossible spending cuts over raising revenue. Both are worth a close read. The value of the co-chairs' report is not that it's perfect, but that it's far more realistic about the severity of the measures -- whether you prefer to lean on the taxing or the spending side -- needed to fix America's finances than most in Washington, including, so far, President Obama. Instead of encouraging the rest of the commission to produce recommendations of equal or, hopefully, greater boldness -- though not necessarily of identical substance -- Obama implicitly did the opposite, giving his co-chairs a C for effort while winking to the other members of the fiscal commission, who he knows are likely to refuse even the clearly useful ideas the co-chairs have. It's not just the president, by the way; the recognition that the answer to America's fiscal woes will be extremely tough -- requiring more than just spending cuts or just tax increases -- is absent from much of the recent critique of the co-chairs' plan.

By Stephen Stromberg  | November 10, 2010; 5:20 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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Comments

Hey, the guy's on vacation. Probably, still looking up the definition for Jihad. Cut the guy some slack.

Posted by: drowningpuppies | November 10, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Let the Tea Baggers figure it out.

Posted by: guitar1 | November 10, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

It would not be terribly smart for a politician to stand up and yell "Let's cut Social Security!". Or whisper it, especially since the first thing that would happen is that he would be attacked by all Republicans, who of course hate deficits but won't do anything about them.

Posted by: philogratis | November 10, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

"Let the Tea Baggers figure it out."
Posted by: guitar1

That's exactly what will happen.
If the President abandons the playing field, the void will be filled by those who seek to solve the nation's problems.
Mr. Guitar1 correctly points out that's the Tea Party.
This President just isn't up to the job. If it doesn't involve spending more money and creating bigger government, this President is AWOL.

Posted by: jfv123 | November 10, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Another reason why Obama and the Dems SHOULD NOT compromise on the extension of the Bush tax cuts. Can you imagine the political fallout of giving rich folks an extension of their Bush tax cut (which they do not need), add 750 billion to the deficit, a deficit that the "Fiscal Commission" just said can be reduced by cutting funds to SSN and Medicare?

Posted by: dozas | November 10, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

The panel recommended eliminating the mortgage interest deductions. Wow, I wonder how that might impact the housing crisis...

Posted by: pepperjade | November 10, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Stromberg,
This is a preliminary report that will be discussed by the full committee - it is not their final product. It behooves any leader (be they a president or a CEO) to wait until a final set of recommendations is produced before they weigh in. You and most commenters here seem to want the President to jump in immediately and begin making, wild excited pronouncements. Issues surrounding debt reduction are far too complex for that. And for all you tea-baggers out there, this report has about 100% more specific suggestions for reducing the debt than any of your leaders or politicians, who can scarcely name anything to cut except "discretionary spending" and "big government." Let's see who the real fiscal conservatives are. It sure isn't the current GOP who voted for unfunded spending (see Medicare Part D) and presided over the creation and beginning of the recession.

Posted by: poultrynow | November 10, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

I was surprised by the panels work. It was excellent. It offers a blueprint of common sense changes to revitalize our country. There is tax simplification, spending reduction, entitlement reform and modest tax increases. If Obama doesn't support this he is a bigger wuss than I thought he was. This is truly a bi-partisan report. Funny how the first Reps. in Congress to condemn the report were Dame Pelosi and the Socialist Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. How telling.

Posted by: jkk1943 | November 10, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

This was never a serious effort by the Administration. It was just looking for cover going into the mid term elections. It didn't work and so the Commission will be thrown under the bus sooner than later!

Posted by: Jimbo77 | November 10, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Great Blog by Steven Stromberg! The recommendations of the The co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility are exactly the castor oil-type medicine, economy-wise, this country needs!

Posted by: kevinrodden | November 10, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Great Blog by Steven Stromberg! The recommendations of the The co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility are exactly the castor oil-type medicine, economy-wise, this country needs!

Posted by: kevinrodden | November 10, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Now we know why the reporting of real news has turned into a joke.

And, it's because media organizations are allowing just anyone off the street's to spew their spittle.

Posted by: lcarter0311 | November 10, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

If cutting Social Security is the best that this commission can come up with, then they *should* be thrown under a bus!

Bush's recession took a *big* chunk out of my 401(k), which has only just started grow again; now to pay for Bush's deficit (yes folks, when Bill Clinton left office he left a surplus)they want to cut Social Security?

They'll have to come up with more creative ideas than that.

Posted by: laSerenissima2003 | November 10, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

These recs. are DOA.

Posted by: jimsteinberg1 | November 10, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

"Another reason why Obama and the Dems SHOULD NOT compromise on the extension of the Bush tax cuts. Can you imagine the political fallout of giving rich folks an extension of their Bush tax cut (which they do not need), add 750 billion to the deficit, a deficit that the "Fiscal Commission" just said can be reduced by cutting funds to SSN and Medicare?"
Posted by: dozas

That is exactly what Obama is hoping most people will say. Its called politics, handing your problem to your opponent who says they have all the answers and then giving them a chance, in public, to agree to harsh realities. Any poltician knows agreeing to these is political poison. The republicans will have to say NO to cutting SS and Medicare. They should be use to saying NO by now. In the end they will hear from The People that letting the tax cut expire on the very rich is not so bad after all. Nice maneuvering Obama!

Posted by: Fate1 | November 10, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

He let Bush do the leadership (a hard thing) on TARP, Nancy and Harry on the Stimulus, Nancy and Harry on Health Care, Nancy on Cap and Tax, all Democrat for their own elections, the courts on don't ask don't tell, the military men on Afghanistan, and now he will distance himself from this.

A CSI team won't be able to find is fingerprints or DNA on anything.

Posted by: flyover22 | November 10, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

If he's not part of the solution, he's part of the problem.

Posted by: thebump | November 10, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

WHO IS THIS GUY? What does he mean by the statement Obama has thrown panel under bus? Wasn't this just announced and exactly what is POTUS to do about a matter if taken up will be done by the Congress?

Posted by: october30 | November 10, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

My guess is any big changes like the mortgage interest deduction will be phased in gradually. Boy are the chicken littles out in force today.

Posted by: baldinho | November 10, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

My mom left me a house.

There were two years worth of surpluses during the Clinton administration. I admire Clinto a lot, but he had NOTHING TO DO with creating two year's worth of budget surpluses.

Clinton did not leave us a surplus in the same way that my mom left me a house.

Budget surpluss or deficits are annual accountings.

Posted by: etronsen | November 10, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Social Security keeps millions from starving. The average social security check is only $1,000 a month. Many receive much less. In many big cities it is hard to find a place to rent for less than $1,000 a month.

Twenty-three percent of older Americans live in families that depend on Social Security for 90% or more of their family income.

Social Security provides crucial income support to women and minorities. Twenty-nine percent of older African-Americans and 26% of Hispanics rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their family income.

Fifty-three percent of women 65 and older count on Social Security to provide 50% or more of family income.

As people get older, they rely more on Social Security. For example, among those 65 to 69, almost 16% count on Social Security to provide 90% or more of their family income. For those 75 to 79, the figure rises to 25%.


Posted by: alance | November 10, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

No, he DIDN'T throw them under the bus. Throwing them under the bus would have been if he'd said "This is unacceptable." You know, like Nancy Pelosi did.

What Obama is doing is letting somebody else - somebody with a long record or wanting to abolish Social Security - throw SENIORS under the bus.

Posted by: solsticebelle | November 10, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm busier than a one-toothed man in a corn-on-the-cob eating contest.

Posted by: MrBethesda | November 10, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Sure is getting crowded under this bus...

Posted by: mtpeaks | November 10, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Obama is a partisan coward - he's no leader... Nothing but a stupid coward who doesn't have the guts to make a tough choice. Shameful... Let's adopt these recommendations for the good of the country and get it on....

Posted by: Capitalist-1 | November 10, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Obama is a partisan coward - he's no leader... Nothing but a stupid coward who doesn't have the guts to make a tough choice. Shameful... Let's adopt these recommendations for the good of the country and get it on....

Posted by: Capitalist-1 | November 10, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

America needs to stop spending money it doesn't have. Protracted and growing budget deficits have been referred to as "feasting on the flesh of the future".

Vote Republican in 2012 and take that credit card out of Obama's hand. He'll max it out soon, and the only way out will be for Bernanke to put the printing presses into overdrive and start paying our debts with funny money. Want to know what that will be like? Look to Germany during the early 1930's.

Posted by: GregMaragos | November 10, 2010 10:04 PM | Report abuse

Alance is the only one who made a realistic and humane comment. In fact, cutting Social Security is de facto eugenics and genocide. Or do you cold hearted liars out there want to pretend that all those people over 70 are going to be able to just go out and get a job that pays enough to live on? What you all want to do is kill the seniors that helped build this country and who worked all their lives. This is absolutely barbaric and shameful. I am so sorry about what this country has become.

Posted by: skylark1 | November 10, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

This is in answer to Pepperjade.
From what I understand, the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction would be for mortgages $500,000 or more.
Meantime, I think the report is excellent. Only wish President Obama and Congress would support it. But that would be a perfect world, wouldn't it.

Posted by: medfordgirl | November 10, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

This is in answer to Pepperjade.
From what I understand, the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction would be for mortgages $500,000 or more.
Meantime, I think the report is excellent. Only wish President Obama and Congress would support it. But that would be a perfect world, wouldn't it.

Posted by: medfordgirl | November 10, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

This is in answer to Pepperjade.
From what I understand, the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction would be for mortgages $500,000 or more.
Meantime, I think the report is excellent. Only wish President Obama and Congress would support it. But that would be a perfect world, wouldn't it.

Posted by: medfordgirl | November 10, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

"I was surprised by the panels work. It was excellent. It offers a blueprint of common sense changes to revitalize our country."

It was a Republican wet dream, and won't be enacted for any reason. It's mean-spirited and unnecessary, when all's that needed is to deprive the rich people getting further Bush tax breaks, and boom! End of need to cut stupidly from those that need it the most.

The Tea Party won the House, not the Congress. They will be filling no "void". They will be what they were the previous two years, shrill liars who've decided to block the operation of government. They can't pass a damn thing.

I've been waiting to see the Tea Party in action. No surprises. They offer nothing but despair and fear.

Wait'll America comprehends the idea of no mortgage interest deduction. NO ONE will support the commission, except the rich and corporate.

Posted by: 2229 | November 10, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

News Flash: Washington insiders call for cutting everything except for Washington!
Film at eleven.

Posted by: mtpeaks | November 10, 2010 10:14 PM | Report abuse

From what I have read of the plan, it seems sound. The income tax policy is a definite improvement over the current tax situation.
As for cutting defense, this seems less viable due to the consumption of material in these last two wars. Also the military itself is badly worn and needs rebuilding.
The military now does not have enough arms to train soldiers.

Posted by: peterroach | November 10, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse


Wow major brands do give out samples of their popular products best place to check is http://bit.ly/aJWSXv glad I found it

Posted by: jessyomari11 | November 11, 2010 12:40 AM | Report abuse

I vehemently oppose the report, which is breathtakingly biased in favor of cuts over taxes to balance the budget. It is not a moderate plan; it is a right-wing one. I refuse to "come together" on something so manifestly biased toward conservative preferences. No way.

Posted by: uh_huhh | November 11, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

Middle of the night in S.Korea, but he must get up & look at something that's not even finished? I think not. They won't be done for about 3 wks.

Posted by: carolerae48 | November 11, 2010 12:49 AM | Report abuse

See how you are? It's not even ratified by the commission as a whole yet. Obama didn't disown it, he merely said 'no comment yet', and you and all your ilk of Obama haters are p@@ing in your pants to announce that he's "thrown them under the bus".

In another year, if Obama goes to a ice cream shop and orders strawberry, you'll announce that "Obama threw vanilla under the bus today!"

Fools.

Posted by: j3hess | November 11, 2010 2:02 AM | Report abuse

What is the problem with the President waiting until he gets the final report and having time to reveiw it before he comments. The Presient did not throw his Commissioners under the bus, you are trashing the President and throwing him under the bus.

Posted by: collegebound1 | November 11, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

FIRST OF ALL, ANY AND ALL THESE PROPOSALS WOULD BE GRADUALLY PHASED.
SECONDLY, NO ONE IS CUTTING SOCIAL SECURITY--THIS PROPOSAL INCREASES THE WORK-YEARS OF THOSE LATER BENEFITING (THE LIFE SPAN HAS INCREASED SINCE S.S. ORIGINATED)
LASTLY, THIS PROPOSAL (MORTGAGES BELOW $500K ARE ARE EXCEPTED) IS ANOTHER OF MANY CLASS/INCOME RELATED FACTORS (B.O. HAD CAMPAIGNED AS A UNIFIER).

Posted by: KansasDoctor | November 11, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

"I'll wait until they finish their work" is throwing them under the bus?
This is the compulsion of the blogging class. No news means fumble among your biases and project some news.
OBAMA SAYS NOTHING; SLANDERS LUXEMBOURG!
How's about you wait for the report (rather than the premature speculations of the chattering classes) and start sllinging mud then? WP will pay you for those couple of days.

Posted by: adelaide1 | November 11, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Since other members of the Commission are already attacking the report, it is not the report of the Commission. Besides, was there ever a guarantee that whatever they proposed would be accepted? I recall no such thing. Which means that there is full freedom by Obama, and anyone else, to disagree with whatever comes out!

Posted by: AMviennaVA | November 11, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Obama fiddles while Rome is burning...unfortunately for our Country, we once again suffer for his inability to function.

Posted by: DiscerningCitizen | November 11, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse


Obama fiddles while Rome is burning...unfortunately for our Country, we once again suffer for his inability to function.

Posted by: DiscerningCitizen | November 11, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

OK, crazy people, take your meds. The President appointed a commission. The commission hasn't filed its report. The recommendations of the co-chairs are a starting point (even they acknowledge that). Let's all take a deep breath and let the commission shape some final recommendations. Then you can start shouting at each other. I, for one, think the co-chairs made a lot of sense with their recommendations, but certainly refinements are in order. As for Obama throwing anyone under a bus, that is non-sense. He has to wait until the full commission acts before taking a stand because otherwise he will be accused of (and guilty of) prejudging its actions.

Posted by: jdnathan | November 11, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

" eliminate the mortgage-interest tax deduction..."

The plan is to cut it for homes over $500,000 in value and second homes.


What a distortion.

I see no reason to read more.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | November 11, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Defense spending and lower revenues due to recession are only part of the story. Outlays are up in Federal payments for entitlements a lot. This includes Soc Security and payments to States presumably stimulus and payments that are would be stimulus but payments to state offices and to the unions.

Posted by: bryanwobley | November 11, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I am mystified! If that is the whole comment by the White House, where on earth did you read all that into it? This article certainly gives a new meaning to 'over-interpretation."

Posted by: quiri | November 11, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

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