"He never met a budget-busting proposal by a Republican president that he did not work like a dog to pass, or a deficit-reducing proposal by a Democratic president that he would not move heaven and earth to try to stop," I would say. "Why, in the Name of the One Who Was, Is, and Is to Come, would you ever name a budget arsonist like Alan Simpson to run your budget fire department--your deficit commission?"
I would be assured that he had changed--that he had come face-to-face with reality on his personal road to Damascus, that he was sorry, that he wanted to undo some of the damage that he had caused, and that he would be a genuine asset to the work of the commission.
I would slink off, muttering "It's not as though Republicans today think they owe him enough for him to be able to swing a single vote in either house of the legislature..."
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice... I was going to write this up, but Paul Krugman has once again done it better and faster.
Paul Krugman on Alan Simpson:
Zombies Have Already Killed The Deficit Commission: It must have sounded like a good idea (although not to me)... a bipartisan commission of Serious People.... But the commission is already dead — and zombies did it. OK, the immediate problem is the statements of Alan Simpson... incredible insensitivity – the “lesser people”??? — and flat errors of fact. But it’s actually much worse than that. On Social Security, Simpson is repeating a zombie lie... the old nonsense about how Social Security will be bankrupt as soon as payroll tax revenues fall short of benefit payments....
We went through all this at length back in 2005, but let me do this yet again.... [Y]ou can simply view the program as part of the general federal budget... there’s a lot to be said for that point of view; if you take it, benefits... [and] payroll taxes... don’t... have anything to do with each other...
And it simply makes no sense whatsoever to claim that the system is "insolvent" as soon as benefits exceed Social Security taxes.
Alternatively, you can look at Social Security on its own. And... as long as Social Security still has funds in its trust fund, it doesn’t need new legislation to keep paying promised benefits.
OK, so two views, both of some use. But... you can’t have it both ways... can’t say that for the last 25 years... Social Security ran surpluses... didn’t mean anything because it’s just part of the federal government — but when payroll taxes fall short of benefits even though there’s lots of money in the trust fund, Social Security is broke. And bear in mind what happens when payroll receipts fall short of benefits: NOTHING. No new action is required; the checks just keep going out.
So what does it mean that the co-chair of the commission is resurrecting this zombie lie? It means that at even the most basic level of discussion, either (a) he isn’t willing to deal in good faith or (b) the zombies have eaten his brain. And in either case, there’s no point going on with this farce.
You don't name an arsonist to co-chair your fire department. If Obama wants his commission to do anything, he needs to replace Alan Simpson with a reality-based co-chair.