Bipartisan efforts at federal deficit reduction will face stronger headwinds as the 2012 election approaches. Public statements even of those pledging an immediate focus on fiscal repairs are already exhibiting the increasing influence of political considerations. President Obama’s April budget address, for example, incongruously referenced opposition “presidential candidates,” and was more specific in its criticisms of Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget framework than it was revealing of the Administration’s own policy ideas. Even members of the bipartisan Senate “Gang of Six” are dropping hints that their proposed implementation of the Simpson-Bowles commission recommendations may largely omit Social Security reform -- an especially stark concession to political concerns, considering that Social Security cost growth over the next decade will exceed that of any other federal program.
The essential problem is that the two major parties are now seeking to distinguish themselves on politically sensitive tax and entitlement policies at precisely the time that bipartisan cooperation on such issues is becoming most necessary. And yet there is a clear path available for the two parties to cooperate to improve the fiscal outlook while still preserving the cores of their respective political messages: namely, by cutting the growth of federal spending on “the rich.”
(photo credit: Blip ou Bruno Veloso)