Gang of Six’s proposal is a leap of faith in an era of doubt

Who says Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on faith-based government initiatives? That’s exactly what the “Gang of Six” senators, with Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss as one of their front men, proposed Tuesday.

Set aside for now the real nitty-gritty of the sextet’s long-rumored grand bargain, which is still emerging and, like everything in Washington, is subject to change. What struck me most about the proposal was that, in this era of distrust — Republicans vs. Democrats, Congress vs. the White House, the electorate vs. the elected — it relies so heavily on mutual faith.

If you’re agitating for tax hikes, you’re expected to believe the plan will actually generate the $1 trillion in new revenues (in 10 years) the Gang says it will. Which may be difficult, given that much of the supposed extra revenue will come from stimulating economic growth by ending tax loopholes and lowering marginal rates.

If you’re nervous about tax hikes, you’re expected to believe, well, that much of the supposed extra revenue will come from stimulating economic growth rather than actually raising taxes. And that Congress will keep lowering marginal rates to ensure new revenues don’t exceed $1 trillion. Which may be difficult, given that some estimates already peg the increase at $2 trillion.

If you’re agitating for spending cuts, you’re expected to believe Senate committees will follow through on their respective shares of the $2 trillion of cuts (again, in 10 years) the plan outlines for them. Which may be difficult, given that those same committees have failed to cut spending for years.

You’re also expected to believe in the plan’s enforcement mechanism against any committee that doesn’t follow through: allowing any five Republican and five Democratic senators to get a vote on their own set of cuts for that committee’s portion of the budget. Which may be difficult, given that even these three Republicans and three Democrats couldn’t agree to specific cuts.

You’re further expected to believe capping discretionary spending at 2011 levels for the next four years is a good idea. Which may be difficult, given that 2011 represents an all-time high for discretionary spending. Even President Barack Obama’s 2012 budget, which the Senate defeated 97-0, called for less spending than that.

If you’re nervous about spending cuts, you’re expected to believe Congress will stop at the $500 billion “down payment” the plan requires. Which really isn’t very difficult, come to think of it, even if some left-wing activists are trying to conjure some ire toward the plan.

Finally, because the hour is so late, Congress would be hard-pressed to pass this plan before, or in combination with, an increase in the debt-ceiling by Aug. 2. So, anyone who supports the plan is expected to believe Congress and the president would still sign off on it after approving a debt-ceiling deal, which may or may not include big spending cuts or tax hikes. Which may be difficult to believe, given Washington’s track record on its promises.

Trust fulfilled, as an antidote to distrust, would make for a great story.

But if you’re having trouble believing, don’t blame Chambliss and his five colleagues. There’s no reason to think they’ve left any options, or firmer ground for compromise, unexplored.

If the Gang’s product relies too heavily on faith — that the other side will deliver what you want, or maybe even that what you’re expected to give will be scuttled when push comes to shove — it may be because the two sides cannot join their competing visions for what Washington is supposed to do and be. They’re that far apart.

And what’s difficult to believe if that’s true?

That this story ends well for any of us.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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56 comments Add your comment

Lil' Barry Bailout

July 21st, 2011
6:03 am

Any plan that needs as much explanation and justification as this one is a sham doomed to failure.

It’s the spending, stupid. Cut the spending. Now–not one or five or ten years from now.

ByteMe

July 21st, 2011
6:53 am

Obama is a weenie for giving in to the tea party loons. You never negotiate with terrorists.

He should go ahead and schedule the shutdown of the government, starting with the FAA two weeks from now. Ground all commercial aviation starting on August 3rd because the government can’t pay the flight controllers. And promise to veto any bill that’s not “clean” and doesn’t raise the debt ceiling enough to get through the next election. And then make a public plea for people to call their congressmen to keep this from happening.

You want to see hostage taking? THAT’S hostage taking. Weenies will do less.

Ayn Rant

July 21st, 2011
6:57 am

Kyle, you’re right about the latest hint of a “plan” for deficit reduction: it’s based on the same old fiction about “stimulating” the private sector to create jobs.

Let’s face it: we’re not able to wean ourselves from borrowed money to prop up the main street economy. Why continue to struggle with fictitious percentage spending cuts and private sector stimulation? American voters are incompetent to recognize and elect wise and sincere leaders. Our federal and state governments are incompetent to plan, build, and maintain the infrastructure needed for a growing economy, or to provide the regulation needed to maintain free market competition.

Let’s give up: a declining civilization is surely entitled to enjoy a brief period of decadence before oblivion.

Why care about federal deficits and the progressively failing main street economy? Our government is competent at converting borrowed capital into pay and benefit checks. Our private sector is doing just fine by parking unneeded capital in speculative financial instruments, investing in overseas markets, and diverting profits to buy out, buy off, or merge with competitors to eliminate jobs.

American consumers are doing just fine. We’ve never before been offered such a wide choice of low-priced, high quality products in our shops. Asian industry can supply our electronic, utility, and household goods. European industry and agriculture can supply our fashion and luxury items. Peasants in developing countries, and illegal immigrants in America, can provide our foodstuffs.

Why would we tolerate polluting industries in our communities, or reserve land for agriculture? Why would anyone bother to get up early on weekdays to work a job that involves noisy machines, tedious procedures, or tiresome customers? Why would any American citizen toil in the fields to spray noxious chemicals and harvest crops during the hot summer months?

We just need to support domestic consumer demand. We need sovereign lenders like China and Saudi Arabia who will continue to buy treasury issues to bolster the dollar. We need tax revenue from super-rich individuals and mega corporations who are not dependent on the US economy. We need federal and state governments to distribute the proceeds from borrowing and taxation to the sick, the elderly, the unemployed, and the wardens of the incarcerated.

See! Why worry? The status quo is just fine.

Jimmy62

July 21st, 2011
7:05 am

Based purely on history, which tends to repeat, I don’t see many of the promises actually happening. Anything that’s not done immediately won’t ever get done, unless it’s raising taxes. That’s the one thing I expect will end up happening for sure.

Joel Edge

July 21st, 2011
7:13 am

Seems like the rats are getting scared and trying to get out of the box. The box that they themselves made. Sounds like more can-kicking.

Here we go again

July 21st, 2011
7:32 am

Ken

July 21st, 2011
7:47 am

Nothing that 15 million jobs wouldn’t cure.

jconservative

July 21st, 2011
8:19 am

Ayn Rant July 21st, 2011 6:57 am

Nice column. Nice description of the last 35 years of US society, politics and government.

You left out the 35 year belief that, as a society and government, the US could cut government revenue, extend huge increases in government services, and still maintain a stable economy.
For 35 years, despite all members of government having studies arithmetic in school, the US believed that it could bring in revenue of $100, then spend $115. and still have money in the bank.

I guess a lotta people made “F” in arithmetic.

DebbieDoRight

July 21st, 2011
8:20 am

Obama is a weenie for giving in to the tea party loons. You never negotiate with terrorists

Amen to that! What kills me is that he’s STILL trying to be the lone sane voice amidst chaos and insanity. He should take a page outta Clinton’s book and not only call their bluff, but prepare for it too. Repubs are holding a dead man’s hand while Obama has a Full house — yet he is too trusting to recognize that he has the power. Hopefully his dreaded “compromise at all costs” symptoms will disappear on July 31st.

Marie

July 21st, 2011
8:28 am

@ByteMe – Yeah let’s shut down the traffic controllers and cause billions of dollars in losses (and additional job losses or layoffs in the private industry) for the airline and other industries that rely on air transportation just to punish the Tea Party. Gee you’re really bright-eyed and bushy tailed this morning with your asinine suggestions. And in case you didn’t know the President has NO PLAN for resolving this debt crisis. He’s put forth NOT ONE serious spending cut for ANY program although he promised airheads like you the nation would be well on it’s way to a balanced budget by his mid-term.

This Gang of Six plan is a dead end. It follows the Bowles-Simpson plan that Obama himself wasn’t even enthused about. So I can’t understand why Saxby Chambliss would throw himself on this alter. Oh I know — he’s a RINO and not a conservative. And to think I had to vote for this clown not once but twice so he could go to DC to come up with brainless compromises like this. Well I will not make that mistake twice.

@Ayn Rant — enjoyed the blurb — too funny but almost too true. Let’s eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we all die!!!

Carlosgvv

July 21st, 2011
8:41 am

Actually, there is no reason to believe anything that our politicians say. They are masters of the lie and could not tell the truth if they tried. Even though this issue will be settled, don’t believe the explanation you hear.

td

July 21st, 2011
8:45 am

We have already spent our children’s inheritance and now we are working on our grandchildren’s. The narcissism of my fellow Americans is disgusting.

Cosby

July 21st, 2011
8:57 am

All this budget is BS. It is a very simple process, individuals and businesses us it all the time:

1 – How much revenue do I have coming in and how much can I reasonable expect. I have X dollars to spend

2 – list expenses starting with those you cannot live without, housing, food, clothing, heat and air, vehicles etc…then when you start to get to the bottom you can cut..movies, cable TV if need be, beer, wine, eating out every day etc. so what should the government do – the same:

1 – ground Air Force 1 – $180,000+ a pop to crank up
2 – cut the pension to Congress until they pay back the Social Security Trust Fund – Note Trust Fund
3 – cut payments to Acorn
4 – cut payments to Planned Parenthood
5 – cut payments to NPR
6 – cut payments to Media matters
7 – cut payments to the UN..why are we supporting third world goons anyway
Get the picture

And if you want to mess with the Tax Code – Pass the Fair Tax..that way, if the rich buy a yacht..they pay their fair share, but if you leave the 16th amendment in place, levi a 50% tax on contributions to campaigns..that will cut the amout of BS the citizens have to listen to.

So, you see, the budget could be done in a few days but Washington elite is so disfunctional and so protective of their ponzi scheme..they will never agree to common sense until we see in our streets what has happened in Greece. And for the 52% of you who are on the Government take…grow up!!!

Lynn

July 21st, 2011
8:58 am

Any politician is speaking of “Faith Based” government initiatives? What a bunch of you know what, speaking of which… Rep. Crapo and Saxby Chambliss and the rest of the “truly gang of six” have the audacity need to quit spinning their political spins, tell the American public their “REAL PLANS” – spell them out in detail. They nor the other side ever with to do this and there would probably be an uprising by American CITIZENS. As the previous writer stated, there is absolute no reason to believe anything that any politican says…..

RGB

July 21st, 2011
9:05 am

The Democrats along with the automatons represented here crave for this country to go into default. Keep spending, keep taxing–there will never be any adverse consequences associated with that.

All the Republican plans floated thus far increase spending but at a slightly slower rate. The Chambliss plan (which I oppose for the reasons Kyle stated) alleges to reduce the increase in spending to $6 trillion over the next 10 years rather than $9 trillion. And td is right–you greedy, narcissistic leftists say that’s not enough. You want to burn through any remaining credit (because we’re out of cash) as quickly as possible so the U.S. will default Big Time. The debt ceiling debate is inconsequential compared to the coming date when we can no longer pay our debt–including Social Security, Medicare, and yes, the FAA and everything else. This will send shock waves through the world economy and we will not recover for decades.

Think of it: Tens of years lost because of selfish, self-loving greed by all Democrats and many Republicans. It could have been avoided.

The front page WSJ article today should, but won’t, frighten you:

Layoffs Deepen Gloom

Companies are laying off employees at a level not seen in nearly a year, hobbling the job market and intensifying fears about the pace of the economic recovery.

Conservative Republican

July 21st, 2011
9:26 am

Dick Cheney: “Deficits don’t matter”.

Sure.

No Longer Repblican

July 21st, 2011
9:29 am

I love stupid people who blame all of this on “the left” when it was the moron in the white house for eight years prior to President Obama that led us into two wars that cost billions daily. Those costs only benefit the war machine, which in turn happens to benefit friends of the Republican party who own those companies.

Anybody who says Obama is a leftist is an idiot. The man has done nothing more than continue the stupid policies of his predecessor, save Obamacare. That is ONE thing he has done right. I wish he would fight in this budget situation now like he did for healthcare.

Amy easy solution, which the Republicans oppose for obvious reasons – they would have less money- because it is ALL about money with them – would be to restore tax rates for the wealthy to pre-Bush days, and to BRING THE TROOPS HOME! We don’t need to continue to spend $10 Billion a day in Iraq. They have the resources let them figure it out!

Stevie Ray

July 21st, 2011
9:36 am

I like Mark Twains definition of faith…. believing something you know isn’t true. Along this vein, I guess we all have “faith” that any of the spending cuts or tax changes will actually materialize to anything resembling budget alignment projected over ten years. I really like “Hmmmm”s” thought process on bank regulation. Unfortunately as we all know, our elected iditiots act solely in the interests of re-election. Their bread is buttered by special interests…banks, unions, defense contractors to name a few. Get rid of lobbyist and implement terms limits as a start to representation by the people as opposed to by the attorneys and those who can otherwise purchase an idiot.

BTW, am I the only one tired of the “oh my god, we are ruining the future of our children and their childrens future” pitch? When I’m dead, I won’t care. Until that time, good parenting will prepare them for whatever they face. They won’t feel anymore victimized by us then we feel victimized by our parents….

No Longer Repblican

July 21st, 2011
9:37 am

And another thing…if Republicans are truly concerned about spending and deficits why did they just push through a Department of Defense budget with an INCREASE??? Either you want spending cuts or your don’t. They only want cuts that won’t affect their voting base…period. It is not in the best interests of the people of the USA…it is in the best interests of Republicans having power.

UGA 1999

July 21st, 2011
9:44 am

Great Job Mr. Obama….great job! joke!

South Georgia

July 21st, 2011
9:49 am

I will vote for none of the above rather than Saxby next time unless a real conservative runs Republican. The deceptive tax increases are disconcerting beyond words. Perhaps Saxby could move to asnother state. He does not represent Georgia.

jeff

July 21st, 2011
9:52 am

Do not pass anything that does not include a balanced budget amendment.

UGA 1999

July 21st, 2011
9:53 am

President Obama = Worst president in recent history!!!

RGB

July 21st, 2011
9:58 am

If you dimwitted statists can reinstall either President Bush or Vice President Cheney into office, we will press them to make the same changes we insist on now.

However, if you cannot do that, we will continue to press Dear Leader and his regime for these changes. For your own sake, you had better hope that we succeed.

MiltonMan

July 21st, 2011
10:02 am

Byte – comparing tea party members to terrorists???

The mental warpness of the typical liberal never cesses to amaze me.

UGA 1999

July 21st, 2011
10:03 am

RGB…..the sad truth is that he wont. Obama is more concerned with his radical agenda than passing bills that are good for Americans.

MiltonMan

July 21st, 2011
10:03 am

Hope & Change baby!

funny....

July 21st, 2011
10:03 am

funny how these republican, small government preaching hypocrites can’t afford to pay for an ethics commission in georgia, but have to money to set up a commission to make sure state agencies are enforcing the new immigration law that is costing the state millions. funny huh…….

MiltonMan

July 21st, 2011
10:05 am

No longer – handing out accolades to Obozo for ObamaCare???

Funny Stuff

MiltonMan

July 21st, 2011
10:07 am

funny – yes it is funny to enforce the law that the dim-witted democrats who were in power for 130+ years in this state refused to enforce.

funny....

July 21st, 2011
10:07 am

the way i see it, both demos and repugs want big government. the dems want big government to be a safety net. the repugs want big government to tell you what to do. both cost bu@#loads of money to pull off….neither party going to shrink how much the govt spends, just going to move the money around. dems want social security, education, healthcare. repugs want corporate rule, military spending, and marriage amendments……still funny huh

GT

July 21st, 2011
10:08 am

The only reason Republicans are looking at a compromise is the polls are laying the blame of this traffic jam squarely on their shoulders. They were the ones who brought us up to the brink in the early 90s with this same old trick. The only way the Republican know how to govern is from a minority position. They win elections through the court system then pray for rain so they don’t have to play. They were handed a surplus had the majority and then let it blow up into a economic mess chasing ghost and fear. They are into what sounds good at a NASCAR race after four or five beers and what doesn’t work in reality on Monday when everybody has sobered up. They got rich on the backs of slaves and bluecollar labor. They are afraid their gravy train is coming to an end and these hardworking Americans are waking up to the tricks of Wall Street and banks that operate behind lobbyist to make morally sick decisions socially acceptable. They fight wars for their own to advance their foreign colonization but can’t even house the soldiers returning home to joblessness. Lets spend money to bail out the rich, fight meaningless wars, and pay for worthless educations because you don’t have any faith in the average citizen of this country. They deserve to be uneducated, homeless and in military graveyards and you deserve to be fat and rich. Maybe the problem with this breach in faith is most of the rich never came throught the swamps of being poor in this day and time. Maybe our forefathers got along better because they walked in the shoes of their fellow countrymen on their way up. They were one of us and understood each other.

Kyle Wingfield

July 21st, 2011
10:11 am

Hmmmm @ 8:44: Long cut-and-paste jobs of other people’s work aren’t allowed here. Please post a comment with a short excerpt — one or two paragraphs — and a link. Thanks.

The Anti-Wooten

July 21st, 2011
10:12 am

Yes MiltonMan, the Teahadists are easily comparable to terrorists. They’ve adopted positions that are designed to bring about the destruction of this country just so they can become more firmly entrenched in the bedrooms and doctors offices of Americans.

funny....

July 21st, 2011
10:18 am

hey malt-o-milt…..immigration is for feds to enforce. there has been no immigration law on the books for 130+ years. you republican morons have been in the white house a helluva lot more during my lifetime than the dim-witted democrats. didn’t see the gipper or the busheys doing much about it….moron

The Anti-Wooten

July 21st, 2011
10:18 am

@RGB, as a liberal Democrat I call nonsense on your supposition that I and others of my leanings crave a default for this country. I recognize that it will cause economic upheaval that might make 2008 look like the “good old days”. But at the same time I’m opposed to the drastic, draconian and dangerous path that Ryan, Cantor and others are pushing out.

The Anti-Wooten

July 21st, 2011
10:19 am

Oh and by the way…Speaker Boehner, where are the jobs?

UGA 1999

July 21st, 2011
10:20 am

ANTI – Yeah you are right….Obama is doing nothing to destroy the country now is he? HAHA keep up the good work.

UGA 1999

July 21st, 2011
10:20 am

HEY ANTI – When did Boehner become president?

Hmmmmmmm

July 21st, 2011
10:22 am

Oh, it’s OK to blah, blah, and blah about the same Old repub/democrat crap….. This paper is totally useless, not a real journalist in the bunch!

td

July 21st, 2011
10:30 am

No Longer Repblican

July 21st, 2011
9:37 am

I will make a deal with you. Lets go to the spending rates for Clinton’s last year in office for two years and then I will support going back to the Clinton tax rates and all the increased revenue can go directly to paying off the debt.

UGA 1999

July 21st, 2011
10:31 am

Did anyone see Smiley and West on Piers Morgan last night? What a bunch of racist fools.

td

July 21st, 2011
10:32 am

The Anti-Wooten

July 21st, 2011
10:18 am

Then give us a plan as to how you would pay off the debt, balance the budget and save SS and Medicare for our grandchildren? Please be specific.

Hillbilly D

July 21st, 2011
10:39 am

My prediction:

At the last minute, there’ll be some sort of watered down compromise, which will extend the debt limit and do little else. They’ll basically be kicking the can down the road until after the 2012 election and, of course, both sides will claim victory. Guess who the losers will be.

Aquagirl

July 21st, 2011
11:03 am

Way to go, Republicans. I lived through the cold war, I really missed living under the idea everything could go to h3ll in a handbasket due to a couple of idiots. Thanks for bringing the idea of economic apocalypse into our lives.

Long cut-and-paste jobs of other people’s work aren’t allowed here.

Best thing you’ve ever written, Kyle. Thank you.

Mrs. Godzilla

July 21st, 2011
11:08 am

Many Germans loved and adored Hitler to the bitter end and that’s what we loyal worshipers of our beloved leader Obama will do. Hopefully, like the Fuhrer’s followers who committed suicide in mass when the Reich became a dream no more, Obama lovers everywhere will self-immolate in unity for eternity in the ultimate sign of collective bonding.

The Anti-Wooten

July 21st, 2011
11:14 am

@td, as you wish…

1)Rollback the Bush/Obama tax cuts.
2)Begin a process of reforming the tax code by closing substantially all loopholes and exemptions followed by an overall lowering of marginal tax rates.
3)SS payroll taxes to be deducted on all income up to $10MM.
4)Means testing for SS but not for Medicare.
5)Require any company that does business with Federal, State or local governments to pay taxes on all income derived and not allow for offshoring to avoid tax liabilities.
6)Initiate a new study in the vein of the Grace report but actually make some attempt to utilize the findings this time.
7)Cut military spending by 17-21%, close all bases that are not deemed highly critical to national security. (Why do we still have multiple bases in Germany and the UK?)
8)Eliminate farm subsidies at all levels. (Your food prices will likely drop rather than rise.)
9)Make Medicare, SS and any other entitlement program fraud a felony with strict sentencing guidelines. (Poor Rick Scott.)
10)Cut the size of the US Department of Education and leave those funds available for local control.
11)Over an 8 year period phase out duplication and redundancy in government programs.
12)Legalize most of the substances that are the concern of the War On Drugs. Tax them.
13)Eliminate the Department of Homeland Security.

These are just some of the ideas that I would put forward but they would all foster debt reduction, more freedoms for Americans and a better shot at prosperity for a middle class that’s now in danger of disappearing.

Jimmy62

July 21st, 2011
11:23 am

1,3,4,and 5 I don’t like, and I don’t know what 6 is. Other than that I’m with you.

I don’t like SS going up to 10M in income. SS is supposed to be that you pay out when you work so you get back when you retire. Raising the taxation to $10M makes it a simple income redistribution program, where you take money from people who earned it and give it to people who didn’t save for retirement, and that’s what SS was never supposed to be, and should not be.

Carlosgvv

July 21st, 2011
11:23 am

Mrs. Godzilla

You are doing the same thing loyal followers of their beloved leader George W. Bush are doing.

Red

July 21st, 2011
11:25 am

A balanced budget amendment should be ratified at the same time that Haiti, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and South California are admitted to the Union.

Talk about a ‘grand bargain’….