Why would any Virginia Democrat join a campaign to gut the social safety net to finance tax cuts for rich people?
"I am proud to join the Campaign to Fix the Debt and lead my fellow Virginians in advocating for real, fiscal reforms-like making entitlement programs solvent, reforming the tax code and reducing the deficit-to put our nation on the path to fiscal health," says Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax) in a press release today from Fix the Debt. But that's a bait & switch - social safety net programs & "the tax code" aren't driving our current deficits - Social Security is solvent through 2038 & Medicare is solvent through 2024. The debt is fueled by the lingering effects of the Bush tax cuts, Bush recession & Bush unfunded wars.
But in the weeks ahead, many of the campaign's members will be juggling their private interests with their public goals: they are also lobbyists, board members or executives for corporations that have worked aggressively to shape the contours of federal spending and taxes, including many of the tax breaks that would be at the heart of any broad overhaul. While Fix the Debt criticized the recent fiscal deal between Mr. Obama and lawmakers, saying it did not do enough to cut spending or close tax loopholes, companies and industries linked to the organization emerged with significant victories on taxes and other policies.
"Some of these folks who are trying to be part of the solution have also been part of the problem," said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning advocacy group, and a former economic adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. "They've often fought hard against the kind of balance that we need on the revenue side. Many of the people we're talking about are associated with policies that would make it a lot harder to fix the debt."
If this campaign was really about debt reduction, they'd have been pushing for a full expiration of the Bush tax cuts as part of the "fiscal cliff" - but as Matt Yglesias details, they didn't:
I'm not saying Fix the Debt or anyone else "should" love the cliff. I'm saying that a group that genuinely believed deficit reduction was the most important issue on the planet would love the cliff. A group that doesn't love the cliff has some priority other than deficit reduction. Sometimes Fix The Debt says the thing they prioritize is the need to avoid unduly rapid austerity. Hence they claim to worry that "the sudden and blunt nature of deficit reduction in the fiscal cliff would have a devastating impact on the economy."
But here, again, there's a problem of consistency. If you believed that avoiding short-term austerity was the most important problem you'd favor kicking the can further down the road. But they say that's actually the very worst policy option around.
So it's not a group dedicated to avoiding premature austerity at all costs and it's not a group dedicated to deficit reduction at all costs either. But it does include among its "core principles" that we need to reduce entitlement spending and enact "comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform" that, among other things, "lowers rates." That sounds a lot like the agenda of a group that's dedicated to rate-cutting tax reform and entitlement spending cuts, rather than to any particular view about the appropriate timing of deficit reduction.
Even if you take "Fix the Debt" at face value, their logic doesn't make any sense: We must protect future generations by gutting their social safety net! Huh? If Social Security & Medicare become a problem in the future (something that's hard to forecast now when the deficit swings so heavily on economic fluctuations), we can decide then to raise taxes or cut benefits. Gutting the social safety net now just guts the social safety net, and Virginia Democrats like Ken Plum should know better.
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