President Obama has appointed former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles to co-chair a new national debt commission that seeks to begin cutting the country’s burgeoning deficits by 2015. The 18-member panel will include eight Republicans. Obama appeared less than confident about the usefulness of the commission, saying they are “taking on the impossible”.
This commission is indeed an exercise in futility. The panel has zero legal authority and can only render recommendations that will likely entail raising taxes and slashing Medicare and Social Security. The appointment of the eight Republicans will likely be seen as an effort by the President to seek bipartisan cover.
Conservative critics have pointed out that much of this year’s projected $1.6 trillion deficit could be averted by simply aborting the failed $787 billion stimulus package, two-thirds of which is still unspent and saving the $500 billion in recently repaid TARP funds. This could finance massive tax cuts that would serve as a genuine effort to stimulate job creation and increase overall revenues.