Two days ago, I predicted that Ryan’s budget would sell a lot of Democrats on the Simpson-Bowles plan. But James Pethokoukis says it’s also doing the reverse. “I hear what GOP support there was for Obama/Bowles/Simpson debt panel plan is collapsing thanks to Ryan Plan,” he tweets. If that’s true, then Ryan, by yoking Republicans to a radical and polarizing proposal that stands no chance of passage, may have set the deficit-reduction effort a very long way back.
Note that Paul Ryan actually served on the Simpson-Bowles commission, though he voted against their final proposal. The big difference between the two plans is that the Simpson-Bowles plan tries to balance the budget deficit without taking sides in various long-running ideological wars over the role of government while the Ryan plan tries to win those wars under the cover of balancing the budget. Though I should also say that now that I better understand the assumptions that Ryan is using to achieve his goals, I don’t think it’s plausible to say that his plan really balances the budget.
But it’d be a shame — and evidence of failure on the part of the Democrats — if Simpson-Bowles became the left pole in this debate. Tom Coburn voted for Simpson-Bowles, and he’s no liberal. It really was a very balanced proposal. I found a lot to like in it and a lot to dislike, which is pretty much what you’d expect from a plan that represents a compromise by people of very different philosophies and political incentives. But it’s not by any means a liberal approach to deficit reduction, which is exactly why it made sense as a framework for this conversation.