Another bipartisan commission? don't we have enough problems?
By streiff Posted in Congress — Comments (17) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
If you were alive during the 1980s you’ve had your fill of “bipartisan commissions” to address serious and seeming intractable political issues. These “commissions” are all based on the idea that politicians will make the tough choices necessary if only they don’t have to take any responsibility for their decisions.
Today being a Monday finds Warren Rudman and Bob Kerrey shopping a new “bipartisan commission” to secure, as they say, our nation’s financial future. One would have thought that they’d done enough damage already.
Political realities explain why nothing has been done about this. Changing course would require substantial spending cuts from projected levels or equivalent tax increases. Neither party wants to be the first to propose these tough choices out of fear that the other side would attack it. Similarly, neither side wants to discuss possible compromises of its own priorities, out of fear that the other side will take the concessions and run. Unfortunately, these fears are justified.
I am a believer in representative democracy and I distrust and oppose rule by philosopher-kings. This is why I am a conservative. Admittedly it isn’t a perfect system but anyone who has ever witnessed school desegregation executed by court order, or wetlands described by the Army Corps of Engineers, or had their home condemned to make way for a shopping center would tend to prefer being governed by people fearful of being called into account for their actions rather than by people who are immune from the effects of their outrages and miscalculations.
Personally, I prefer my Congress a bit on the gutless side. I think it is healthier when employees are a little fearful of their employers. I feel safer at night as does my bank account.
Since the regular legislative process seems incapable of dealing with the impending crisis, some alternative has to be found. President Bush has suggested a commission. Having served on many commissions, we understand their potential value. We also understand how they can go wrong. In our view, a new commission could be very useful, but only if it recognizes fiscal and political realities.
Sure they can be useful in the way a magician diverts your attention to his left hand as his right is pulling off the magic trick. I would contend that if we simply burned all the copies of reports produced by previous bipartisan commissions we could eliminate our dependence on foreign oil.
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) have put forward a proposal that satisfies most of these elements. They would create a bipartisan commission with a broad mandate to examine long-term fiscal challenges. All policy options would be on the table. The commission would solicit input from the public and develop legislation that Congress and the president would be required to act on. Its work would address four key concerns: the unsustainable gap between projected spending and revenue, the need to increase national savings, the implications of foreign ownership of U.S. government debt and the lack of emphasis on long-term planning in the budget process.
Hmmm. The commission would produce legislation “Congress and the president would be required to act on.” I guess this is where the magic wand comes in. One would think Warren frickin Rudman, one of the authors of the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Act would be smart enough to know that there is no mechanism to make the Congress or President act if they are determined not to act.
The Wolf-Voinovich proposal has been greeted with silence or outright hostility. It deserves better. This is a serious proposal by two leaders who regard the debt burden and draconian policy options we are leaving to future generations as a moral stain on our nation's character.
Silence and hostility seems about right to me.