Generally speaking, bi-partisan commissions are a bad idea, with just a few exceptions. Those being when something is being investigated–such as the 9/11 Commission or the current Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. The debt reduction commission, set to be unveiled today by President Obama, falls into the bad idea category, and for the usual reason.
Bi-partisan commissions are nothing more than a refuge for gutless politicians who are more concerned with the next election than the next generation, and who don’t want to go on the record with votes on controversial issues which might hurt their re-election chances. And there are no issues more controversial than what must be done if we hope to make any serious attempt at reducing the national debt. And I don’t mean re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic with so-called “spending freezes” on areas of the budget which amount to less than 20% of all spending.
Serious debt reduction has to take on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which together make up about 40% of the budget. And for the two biggest expenditures–Social Security and Medicare– there are only 3 options–raise taxes, reduce benefits, or raise the eligibility age.
Serious debt reduction has to cut spending across the board, no exceptions and no exclusions, including the Pentagon. The 2009 budget for the Department of Defense was north of $700 billion, which is roughly equivalent to the rest of the world’s military spending combined.
Serious debt reduction has to include tax increases. We, as a country, have been living on a credit card for the last 30 years–it’s time to start paying the bill.
Tough decisions all, and decisions we pay members of Congress to make, not shove off on “bi-partisan commissions” with no authority to do anything other than make recommendations.