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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Something for everyone to hate

The outline of likely recommendations by the bipartisan commission to reduce the debt is hardly rocket science. What happens with the suggestions to cut spending and raise taxes will be revealing about our elected officials -- and ourselves.

It's interesting that congressional Republicans have held their fire -- so far. Speaker-elect John Boehner will take the gavel in January with a majority pledged to reduce the federal deficit, voted in by a public that has grown impatient with both parties failure to address our nation's major concern -- a lack of jobs. And this won't do anything on that score.

The commission headed by former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson is calling for a massive dose of castor oil: deep cuts in domestic and military spending, a gradual 15-cents-a-gallon increase in the federal gas tax, limiting or eliminating popular tax breaks in return for lower rates, and benefit cuts and an increased retirement age for Social Security.

There's clearly something for everyone to hate: higher taxes and reduced defense spending for Republicans; domestic spending cuts and changes in Social Security and Medicare for the Democrats.

But there's also some tough stuff for Mr. and Mrs. Average Citizen, particularly the senior citizens and Tea Party folks who rail against health care reform while yelling "Keep your god-damned government hands off my Medicare" and Social Security.

These folks, after all, were the base that catapulted Republicans -- who have talked about deficit control while promoting the free lunch of low taxes and high spending for three decades -- into the House leadership role.

In the end, I strongly suspect a gridlocked Congress will be unable to muster the courage to do the hard work. And they will be aided and abetted by constituents who, in the words of former Sen. Russell Long, think: "Don't tax me and don't tax thee. Tax that man behind the tree."

After all, can a tree fall in Congress if no one is behind it?

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