The Deficit Commission Is Not About Simpson, Bowles or Cote! It Is About Pragmatically Fixing It!

Crossposted at DailyKos.
I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.

~Barack Obama
On February 18, 2010, the President made it clear when he established via an executive order the Bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, why it is going to be important to tackle in a bi-partisan way the ever growing Deficits (budget deficit of the federal government) which are expected to total $9.8 trillion over the next 10 years (5.2 percent of GDP during that period) and the national debt (total amount of money owed by the US Federal Government to creditors)which stands at nearly $13.4 trillion and is growing.

As we face economical and financial challenges, a number of significant measures have been implemented and/or are planned to cut our deficits and/or debts such as cutting waste, restoring pay as you go, discretionary spending freeze, ending loopholes and tax giveaways, passing a health reform bill without adding to the deficit but reducing it by $1.3 Trillion in 20 years, et al, which are all important actions but are not just good enough to change the paradigm for the kind of change needed to really address our governments' inability to live within our means.

According to the CBO estimate, the federal debt would hit a level equal to 62 percent of gross domestic product this year and under the current budget, that level would grow to nearly 80 percent at the end of the decade. If Bush-era policies are extended, that debt would grow to 87 percent of GDP by 2020 and triple by 2035.

Considering these challenges, when the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform was established, its purpose was/is to bring forth solutions to tackle the long ignored fiscal problem. Its objectives included the following:
* The Commission will make recommendations that put the budget in primary balance so that we are paying for all operations and programs for the federal government (achieving deficits of about 3 percent of GDP) by 2015 and meaningfully improve the long-term fiscal outlook.
* The Commission will be comprised of 18 total members. 12 members will be appointed by Senate/House leaders (3 each by the Republican and Democratic leaders of both chambers). All must be sitting members of Congress. The additional 6 members will be appointed by the President, with no more than 4 from the same political party.
* Furthermore, 14 out of 18 votes needed to report recommendations, and recommendations must be reported to Congress by December 1, 2010.
Members Of The Commission:

House Democrats: Xavier Becerra (CA), Jan Schakowsky (IL), John Spratt (SC).
House Republicans: Dave Camp (MI), Jeb Hensarling (TX), Paul Ryan (WI).
Senate Democrats: Max Baucus (MT), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Dick Durbin (D-IL).
Senate Republicans: Mike Crapo (ID), Judd Gregg (NH), Tom Coburn (OK).
President Obama: In addition to Bowles and Simpson – Andy Stern, president, Service Employees International Union; Dave Cote, president and CEO, Honeywell; Ann Fudge, former CEO, Young & Rubicam Brands; Alice Rivlin, senior fellow, Brookings.
I highlighted the commission members name of Bowles, Simpson and Cote who have caused drama in the blogsphere and wanted to briefly address them. As members of the Deficit commission who are considered knowledgeable to tackle and find potential solutions regarding the skyrocketing deficit and debt problems, it does not help to solidify the integrity of the commission when someone like the co-chair Alan Simpson compares Social Security to milking a cow with 310 million tits, nor is it helpful to make a generic statement by another co-chair Bowles -- "we’re going to mess with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security" to stay a first-rate country, nor does it make Cote an appealing choice to seat as part of the commission when he had wanted to end retiree health benefits and raise out of pocket costs for workers to an annual $8,500 at his plant in Metropolis, Illinois. Such statements and stands have made the Left blogshpere community very angry to the point of asking the Obama administration to fire Simpson.

However, there are other past statements of Simpson such as this for example where he has dissed his own party at large for their partisanship...
Bowles and Simpson said the commission would have had a stronger hand politically had it been created by Congress, rather than through an executive order. Simpson was pointed in his criticism of seven Republicans who once co-sponsored such a measure but who helped block it in the Senate."As far as I can discern, it was to stick it to the president," Simpson said. "That's where we are in Washington." He later added that all seven "have now come to us to say, 'We're ready to help."
Republicans who co-sponsored the commission idea before they voted against it: Sam Brownback of Kansas, Mike Crapo of Idaho, John Ensign of Nevada, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah.
However, regardless of the fact that these men might have good understanding of the problems and apologies are made in the case of Simpson, at this stage in politics it is a jolt and insulting to most liberals to dramatize or undercut the effect of one of the most celebrated land mark progressive accomplishment like Simpson did. In fact, it is legitimate to ask for the firing of these people if you are the left of the left liberal Democrat. However, what we at times forget to understand about President Obama has been his consistency in his pragmatist thinking some just don't understand.

The POTUS makes many decisions and most often he may look past some ill advised statement made by some people even within his administration who stumble flat on their asses but he understands these same people also have commitment, passion and conviction to do something profound to change America. He believes in them. The lack of feeding into the drama and his steadiness giving the benefit of doubt even for opposing views/ideologies is a teaching moment that separates the thought process of Barack H. Obama and most pundits at large.

Elections are in a way a footsie game whether we like it or not. His personal grace and dignity, his well rounded understanding of people's emotions, his less partisan rhetoric compared to any past Presidents that transcends politics coupled with his understanding of the issues are what distinguishes him from the field of other politicians making him the most electable politician in the field. Obama knows how to make it hard to generate much enthusiasm in opposing him (outside of Daily Kos, of course) because he is indeed a President of all Americans while pushing progressive ideals.

Mitchell Aboulafia eloquently said it regarding Obama's pragmatist thinking:
Given Obama's willingness to label himself a pragmatist, many have been mystified by his commitment to specific values, finding him not only unclassifiable in accepted political categories, but mystifying as a person. For example, in a recent article in Harpers (Nov. 2008), "The American Void," Simon Critchley treats Obama as, well, a void. He just can't figure the guy out.
[Simon Critchley from The American Void] -- This is a world where good old democratic deliberation replaces decisionism and where the to and fro of civil conversation replaces religious absolutism. Democracy is not a house to be built but "a conversation to be had" [even if the conversation is with them good ole Republican]. After eight disastrous years of gross mismanagement, secrecy, and lies, it sounds like an absolutely blissful prospect.
In fact, as I have noted elsewhere (PBS site), there is nothing strange about Obama's political views for those who are familiar with the American philosophical tradition of Pragmatism or the Social Gospel Movement. Interestingly, Critchley makes much of Obama's mother being an anthropologist, but what he fails to mention is that Ann Dunham's thesis director was Alice G. Dewey, John Dewey's granddaughter. (John Dewey may be the most influential Pragmatist of the twentieth century). This is no accident. Obama's thought and practice can be located in the tradition of American Pragmatism (pragmatism with a capital P) and in the liberal Social Gospel Movement that was influential in Chicago during the early part of the 20th century. The latter is still influential in some Chicago churches and community groups, especially those that would have most engaged Obama's attention as a community organizer.
Is what Simpson said a game changer for Obama? No, it is not. I often ask myself, had I been Obama, would I have chosen these three to be a part of the deficit commission to begin with? Well, to be honest with you, I am glad I am not him and I sure as hell don't want to be shouted down like a dog too but I would probably have reservation about them. However, the more I see Obama react to things, the more I have become accustomed to learning from his approach in being pragmatist than react to things. If you remove these people and have no opposing views challenging you against your ideals, what new things are you factoring in to solving American's problem? I respect the President's decision and am not at all surprised by going about it business as usual. In fact, I think the tent is big enough for many great ideas even from opposing side of views that cutting the life cycle of many years of knowledge because of misguided comment appears to be a wrong move and an unlikely and unpersuasive ideal for pragmatist President Obama.

I believe as progressives what we must understand about Obama is that he is not reactionary. Critchley puts his wish list of the kind of persona he would like to see in Obama from The American Void article:
He [Obama] confesses early on that he is not someone who easily gets worked up about things. But sometimes I rather wish he would. Anger is the emotion that produces motion, the mood that moves the subject to act.
I know that is how some feel but that is just not Obama. Rather...
At the core of The Audacity of Hope is someone who lives at a distance, someone distanced from himself and from others and craving a bond, a commitment to bind him together with other Americans and to bind Americans together. There is a true horror vacuum in Obama, a terror of loneliness and nothingness. He yearns for an unconditional commitment that will shape his subjectivity and fill the vacuum. He desires contact with some plenitude, an experience of fullness that might still his sense of loneliness, fill his isolation, silence his endless doubt, and assuage his feelings of abandonment.

But perhaps this opacity is Obama’s political genius: that it is precisely the enigmatic, inert character of Obama that seems to generate the desire to identify with him, indeed to love him. Perhaps it is that sense of internal distance that people see in him and in themselves. Obama recognizes this capacity in an intriguing and profound remark when he writes, “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” He is a mirror that reflects back whatever the viewer wants to see. Somehow our loneliness and doubt become focused and fused with his. Obama’s desire for union with a common good becomes unified with ours. For that moment, and maybe only for that moment, we believe, we hope. It is a strangely restrained ecstasy, but an ecstasy nonetheless.
Chris Hayes wrote discussing Obama's pragmatism:
Pragmatism in common usage may mean simply a practical approach to problems and affairs. But it's also the name of the uniquely American school of philosophy whose doctrine is that truth is pre-eminently to be tested by the practical consequences of belief. What unites the two senses of the word is a shared skepticism toward certainties derived from abstractions-one that is welcome and bracing after eight years of a failed, faith-based presidency.
Believing in a bi-partisanship is not being an anti-democrat. It is being inclusive. If in fact, 14 out of 18 votes are needed from the Bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to report recommendations to congress on December 1, 2010, then I see a blood bath going on behind close doors which I think is for the better security of our future. Some would never agree with that style of governing nor would they agree with anything an admen Obama supporter would say. But, keep in mind that one of the most distinguishing factors for why Obama was elected POTUS is not for being partisan. It is because of the message of unanimity and hope rather than division and antagonism so let the commission stand on it's own and judge later after the recommendations to congress is made. Beside, the buck stops at the President's desk.

Let's us not forget that the work of the Deficit Commission is looking to do a number of things to reduce the deficit to 3 percent of GDP by 2015 via policies to raise revenue and reducing the cost of entitlement programs but not by extending the Social Security age. If the latter idea is even on the table, I am certain that it will not make it to the recommendation's list to congress with 14 out of 18 sponsors voting for it. However, with the current wave of undermining the President preemptively under the assumption that he will give a go ahead to extending the Social Security age (partly because of some commission members past statement) before we even know what the recommendation are undercuts the purpose of the commission. It is not helpful nor is it productive.

I think the President is more concerned with getting things done and showing tangible results than projecting as some pundits are obsessed with in producing drama. I also concur with what Joe Klein said speaking about Obama during the 2008 campaign -- the President is a grown up in a country that needs some adult supervision -- so true especially when you see the line up of Republicans running for office.

Let's us not forget what President Obama has said about who he is when we seek the kind of change we want to see. Let us factor about how the man thinks in depth:
I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.
He is inclusive. Peace!