Super committee Democrats offered their Republican colleagues a deficit reduction package that was nearly identical to the much-lauded Bowles-Simpson plan, but with one major exception: It contained only half as much new revenue. The Republicans rejected it.
Now, with this year’s special deficit super committee having come up empty, some are turning back to last year’s special deficit commission to provide a blueprint for moving forward. The plan offered by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the chairmen of the president’s fiscal commission, enjoyed bipartisan support from lawmakers—it served as the basis of the Senate’s Gang of Six plan—and is often the subject of effusive praise from centrist deficit hawks. Some prominent conservatives even criticized the president and Democrats in Congress for failing to fully embrace the Bowles-Simpson plan.
But Democrats on the super committee did embrace it, and even sweetened the deal for conservatives by slashing the amount of revenue increases in half. The overall amount of discretionary cuts offered by the Democrats on the panel was essentially identical to that in the Bowles-Simpson plan. The amount of cuts to health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid were the same in both plans. The Democratic plan contained only slightly shallower cuts to other mandatory programs but did not include the changes to Social Security that Bowles-Simpson recommended.
As for revenue, the Bowles-Simpson plan called for about $2 trillion in revenue above that which would be raised if all the Bush tax cuts were extended (not including additional revenue from their Social Security changes). The Democratic plan, by contrast, included just $1 trillion in new revenue.
The Democrats embraced almost the entirety of the Bowles-Simpson spending cuts. And they paired that up with only half as much revenue. Yet the Republicans still refused. The Bowles-Simpson plan may yet provide the foundation for an eventual “grand bargain” for deficit reduction. But for now, even a plan well to its right was deemed unacceptable by conservative lawmakers.
Michael Linden is the Director for Tax and Budget Policy at American Progress.