Republicans: Politically Savvy but Substantively Irresponsible
A Disproof of the Rational Senator Hypothesis

I Think EconomistMom Doesn't Understand the Game Being Played Here...

She writes:

If We Can’t Even Agree on the Commission…: I still don’t understand why those in Congress who truly want to achieve fiscal sustainability would oppose this commission just because it’s not as strong as a statutory commission, which they can’t pass in Congress anyway.  In helping policymakers and the American public confront the tough choices, any fiscal commission is better than none–as long as we don’t have to deficit finance the commission itself...

Economist Mom doesn't understand the game being played here.

Let's pick ten Republican or near-Republican senators typically called "moderates" (some of whom have retired since 2003): Collins, Domenici, Grassley, Gregg, Hatch, Snowe, Specter, Voinovich, Nelson, and Lincoln. Only two of them (Blanche Lincoln and Judd Gregg) opposed the unfunded Medicare Part D. Only one of them (Olympia Snowe) opposed the 2003 tax cut, even though it was very clear at the time that permanent (as opposed to temporary recession-fighting) tax cuts were the last thing that America needed. And none of them opposed the 2001 tax cut--even though Alan Greenspan was at the time wandering around Capitol Hill whispering that it was bad policy, and that we were very likely to rue the day it had passed.

So these aren't deficit hawks. These are something else--deficit chickens, deficit doves, deficit turkey-vultures.

Yet they are the kinds of senators who are the big boosters of the Commission. Senator Voinovich went to talk to Obama to urge him to support the Commission--very much like an arsonist pleading to be put in charge of the fire department. What did he say to the President? "Stop me before I legislate again!"?

The idea is that by voting for the deficit commission that they can insulate themselves against the charge of fiscal irresponsibility: "What do you mean I'm not fiscally responsible? I voted for the deficit commission!" And because the ability to vote for pointless deficit commissions exists, Collins, Domenici, Grassley, Gregg, Hatch, Snowe, Specter, Voinovich, Nelson, Lincoln, and all their ilk are under less pressure to actually do something to create an American government that lives within its means and has the means to live.

Thus EconomistMom is, IMHO, completely wrong when she says that "any fiscal commission is better than none." That would hold only if the Republican and near-Republican senators were playing a very different game than they actually are.