CBPP: Half of Simpson-Bowles Already Implemented

One of the most remarkable moments of last night’s debate was when Mitt Romney rejected the idea of implementing the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan while insisting that President Obama should have implemented it.

Lehrer: Governor, what about Simpson-Bowles? Do you support Simpson-Bowles?

Romney: Simpson-Bowles. The president should have grabbed that…

Lehrer: I mean do you support Simpson-Bowles?

Romney: I have my own plan. It’s not the same as Simpson-Bowles. But in my view the president should have grabbed it, if you wanted to make some adjustments to it, go to congress, fight for it…

As you may or may not be aware, one of the primary reasons Simpson-Bowles was never adopted is because it never made it out of congress after Romney’s vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan lead the charge to vote it down. The Republicans ultimately opposed the plan because it included a significant stream of new revenue in addition to a significant amount of cuts.

Obviously what Mitt Romney said during last night’s debate was disingenuous and misleading, but it’s also ironic, because according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, roughly half of the savings found in the Simpson-Bowles plan has already been implemented by the Obama administration.

Policymakers have already enacted about half of Bowles-Simpson’s nearly $2.9 trillion of program cuts. Because of the caps on discretionary funding in last year’s Budget Control Act (BCA), discretionary spending will be $1.5 trillion lower over 2013-2022 than under the Congressional Budget Office’s August 2010 baseline (the baseline in use when the Bowles-Simpson commission deliberated). Including the associated interest savings, the total budget savings reach $1.7 trillion.

The majority of the savings in Bowles-Simpson that haven’t yet been achieved is on the revenue side. Excluding the enacted savings, the Bowles-Simpson plan would achieve an additional $4.6 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years, consisting of $1 in program cuts for every $2 in revenue increases.

Why haven’t savings on the revenue side been implemented yet? Because, again, the Republicans, including Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, adamantly oppose adopting any new streams of revenue.

Mitt Romney reiterated that himself last night during the very same exchange.

From the 2:00 minute mark

President Obama: Governor Romney has ruled out revenue.

Lehrer: Is that true?

Romney: Absolutely. The revenue I get is from more people working, getting higher pay, paying more taxes.

In other words, Mitt Romney’s plan for additional revenue is trickle-down economics. It’s tax cut magic. The same phony line of non-reason trotted out by the Bush administration to justify passing the Bush Tax Cuts that are set to expire at the end of this year.

And not to let it go unchallenged, Romney’s lines about trillion dollar deficits is also not true. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit will drop below $1 trillion to $901 billion in 2013 and almost entirely vanish by 2017 thanks to the expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts.

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  • bphoon

    I’m at about the 1:30 mark and there have been at least half a dozen opportunities for Obama to jump in and call Romney out on his bullshit.

    Let’s hope he recalibrates for debates 2 and 3.

    Unfortunately, debates tend to be more beauty contests than anything else and substance, such as that above, goes by the wayside where only wonks and nerds like us pay attention to it. It doesn’t matter if Romney stands up there speaking Swahili as long as he looks and sounds good doing it. He lies–no matter. His lies sounded good and his head didn’t implode, so the pundits chalk up a “win” for him.

    I’d like to see We the People get a win sometime.

  • gescove

    It is shocking, I know, that Rmoney was lying… again. But Obama’s pursuit of the Grand Bargain and implementation of austerity is not a strong selling point, IMO. If the federal government isn’t spending to help boost demand, particularly when it can borrow money at historically low rates, and (as you’ve pointed out elsewhere) corporations are content to just sit on unprecedented piles of cash, then we are in for many more years of slow growth and high unemployment rates if not a return to recession. The idiotic part is that the contractionary impact of austerity measures is being played out in real time in Europe. How much proof do we need that austerity is stupid policy in an economic downturn? Screw Simpson-Bowles and whatever beast they rode in on.

    • JMAshby

      You’re missing the point. This all plays well to swing voters and independents. That’s how you win an election.

      Simpson Bowles is never going to see the light of day, but the optics matter. This administration has shined on optics.

  • mrbrink

    I love how you make Bowels-Simpson sound as riveting as the Cuban Missile crisis.

    Good writing. Good summary. Good political analysis.

    Adding, by good, I mean great!