Update: Catfood Commission Recommendations DOA – R.I.P.

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

As I predicted days ago, the media villagers today dutifully only reported that the Catfood Commission released its final recommendations [pdf], and will vote on them on Friday. There are at least three other deficit-reduction plans being circulated that should also be reported in any public discussion — you know, that whole informed electorate thing — but the "gatekeeper" media villagers deem only the Catfood Commission relevant and refuse to inform the public of these alternative deficit-reduction plans in their reporting. Epic media fail.

The latest Catfood Commission recommendations are not substantially changed from the chairmen's mark preemptively released by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles a couple of weeks ago. Deficit Commission releases recommendations:

AP sums it up:

A new version of the plan, obtained by The Associated Press, makes mostly minor changes to a draft that whipped up enormous controversy when unveiled earlier this month. Some domestic spending cuts are modestly higher than previously proposed, and health care savings from overhauling the medical malpractice system would reap less than proposed earlier this month.

Unlike their original proposal, Bowles and Simpson stop short of calling for caps on medical malpractice awards. Instead they recommend changes in how awards are made.

But other proposals remain the same. Among them are a gradual increase in the Social Security retirement age to 68 by 2050 and 69 by 2075, using a less generous cost-of-living adjustment for the programs and increasing the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes.

The plan also retains a 15-cents-per-gallon increase on gasoline, a three-year freeze on federal worker pay and cutting 200,000 workers from the federal payroll through attrition.

The CBO scored the plan, CBO: Deficit Commission plan increases public debt load in next decade, throwing that dash of cold water, again, on the idea that there are real healthcare cost savings to be found in medical malpractice reform. It's the myth that refuses to die, and yet the commission didn't do anything to address criticisms that there's nothing effective in the proposal for reducing the greatest long-term deficit driver for the nation–healthcare costs.

The question now is what happens next.

Well, there's the problem. The commission must provide the legislative language, and they must get at least a majority vote on the commission which would be 10 votes. (The commission's mandate requires 14 votes on any proposal to require Congress to take up a proposal). The legislative language condition is not going to be met. The commission did not create any legislative language and officially ceased to exist after December 1. I stand by my predicition that no proposal will receive the requisite 14 votes, but it remains to be seen whether a proposal will receive 10 votes, albeit without any legislative language and thus only symbolic. This commission was a spectacular waste of time, energy and money.

As for the question What happens next on the Deficit Commission?, Chris Bowers at Daily Kos offers this insightful analysis:

In terms of process, here is what happens next:

1. The commission will not issue a final report
While the members of the deficit commission will vote on the recommendations on Friday, when they do so they will just be 18 people holding a vote on something, and not the formal deficit commission created by President Obama. This is because the deficit commission ceases to exist at midnight [December 1]. As commission co-chair Alan Simpson said:

To those who just wish the commission would go away, Simpson had one bit of good news: “That’s exactly what we’re going to do December 2.”

Further, the by-laws of the commission state:

The Commission shall vote on the approval of a final report containing a set of recommendations to achieve the objectives set forth in the Charter no later than December 1, 2010. The issuance of a final report of the Commission shall require the approval of not less than 14 of the 18 members of the Commission.

With the vote pushed to Friday, there will not be a final report from the commission. Instead, 18 people will simply say if they like the commission’s recommendations or not.

2. There will never be a Congressional vote on the recommendation package
Even though the commission will not issue a final report, it is still technically possible for Congress to vote on the package of recommendation put forth by the co-chairs. However, while technically possible, this also will not happen. The reason it will not happen is because this is simply a list of recommendations, and not an actual piece of legislation.

Congress has to vote on actual legislation, even when it is voting on symbolic measures like resolutions and “sense of the chamber” stuff. This is why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the Senate will only vote on the package unless it came in the form of legislative language. However, since there is no legislative language to accompany the package of recommendations, and since the commission ceases to exist [today], there will never be a congressional vote on this package of recommendations.

3. Congress will draw up its own budget.
The recommendation package will never be voted on. Instead, the proposals are designed to help swing the political conversation on deficits in favor of the proposals preferred by the two co-chairs, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. The Associated Press paraphrases Bowles admitting as much:

Bowles says it's just as important to have jump-started a national debate on what it'll really take to bring the deficit under control.

So, what will happen is that, in the coming months, the Budget Committees of both chambers of Congress will produce their own proposals for fiscal year 2012. Whether or not this actually includes all, some, or none of the proposals in the Simpson-Bowles recommendations will be entirely coincidental. Congress is going to write this itself, and there will be an epic fight over it. The commission is ultimately immaterial, except as a spin machine and press release factory.

4. Budget Committees will likely propose more severe recommendations.
Now, even though the Budget Committees will do this themselves, and even though the deficit commission is essentially meaningless except as a press release factory, opponents of the Simpson-Bowles proposals should not be comforted. The incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee is Republican Paul Ryan, who opposes the Catfood Commission report because it isn’t cruel enough. In the Senate, the Budget committee will be chaired by North Dakota Democrat Kent Conrad, who has endorsed the Simpson-Bowles recommendations.

So, while the deficit commission is ultimately meaningless, the fight over austerity for everyone but the rich still looms large. It’s a difficult road ahead of us, and we need to steel ourselves for the fight.

Not only did the media villagers fail to report the recommendations of alternative deficit-reduction plans, their reporting today also fails to include this insightful analysis that the Catfood Commission and its recommendations, if any, are immaterial and meaningless. Their goal is to convince the public that the Bowles-Simpson "chairmen's mark" is oh so serious by oh so serious individuals and should be taken oh so seriously because the media villager conventional wisdom deems them oh so serious.

Bullshit! The "chairmen's mark" is just more of the same failed conservative economic policies that put us in this hole in the first place. It is unadulterated crap. The media villagers putting frosting on it and calling it delicious will not change this immutable fact. The media villagers who are complicit in this fraud upon the public can go to hell.

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