Are you ready for another bite at the Simpson-Bowles apple?
The deficit cutting duo whose recommendations were rejected by the president who asked them to come up with a bi-partisan solution to the deficit problem have re-emerged just weeks before the sequester deadline with a new "Grand Bargain."
Messrs. Simpson and Bowles co-chaired the White House's 2010 deficit-reduction panel, which put together a bipartisan package of tax and spending changes that fell flat after the administration and congressional leaders took a look.
They will try once again on Tuesday, at a time when Washington budget talks have entered a particularly frosty period. Republicans and Democrats say they want to reduce the federal budget deficit but are far apart on how and by how much.
Many lawmakers left Washington late last week for recess this week, having made little progress in talks to avert roughly $85 billion in federal spending cuts scheduled to begin March 1. These cuts will run through September unless Congress intervenes, something many analysts believe is becoming less likely each day.
Mr. Simpson, a Republican, and Mr. Bowles, a Democrat, say their new proposal would reduce the federal budget deficit by $2.4 trillion over 10 years, more than the $1.5 trillion package that White House officials have said is their goal. Obama administration officials say any deficit-reduction package must include new tax revenue as well as spending cuts.
House GOP leaders have not yet detailed the size of the deficit-reduction package they will propose, but they have said it would balance the budget within 10 years, which would put it in the $4 trillion range. They have said, though, that it won't include any tax increases.
The new $2.4 trillion Simpson-Bowles proposal would identify $600 billion in spending reductions through changes to health-care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. That is roughly $200 billion more than the White House has said it is willing to accept.
The health-care component is perhaps the most detailed of any part of the package, according to a description, calling for "improving provider and beneficiary incentives throughout the health care system, reducing provider payments, reforming cost-sharing, increasing premiums for higher earners, adjusting benefits to account for population aging, reducing drug costs, and getting better value for our health care dollars."
Some of those Medicare reforms have been proposed in the past and Democrats have absolutely refused to even consider them. Obama wants to tinker with Medicare and Medicaid around the edges, which is entirely unacceptable given the crisis those two programs will generate in the near future. The Simpson-Bowles proposal doesn't go far enough, but at least it attacks some core problems in the programs.
The plan will end up being ignored like the others. As a basis for negotiations, it won't work. Neither side is willing to give in on their primary issues of no new taxes, and no changes in Medicare. Both sides are now counting on the sequester cuts to start hurting, thus forcing the other's hand. It's a vapid strategy and will no doubt prove disastrous in the end.