Friday, November 19, 2010

COULD ACROSS-THE-SPECTRUM PUBLIC OUTRAGE STOP THE MAD DEFICIT HAWKS? (With a little help from the Masters of the Universe?)

Alan Simpson is gleefully awaiting a government shutdown in the spring over the debt ceiling, which he thinks will lead to the implementation of all or part of the Bowles/Simpson plan -- but is he celebrating prematurely?

Former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, the top Republican on the President's bipartisan debt commission, ... predicted a government that approaches shutdown in April of next year.

"This is going to be beautiful politics -- The brutal kind," he told reporters in Washington at a forum put on by the Christian Science Monitor. "I love those," he said, with a twinkle in his eye and a jokester tinge to his voice....

"I can't wait for the blood bath in April. It won't matter whether two of us [on the deficit commission] have signed off on this, or 14 or 18. When debt limit time comes they're going to look around and say what in the hell do we do now? We've got guys who will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give them a piece of meat, real meat off of this package, and boy the blood bath will be extraordinary. And they'll say how the hell do you get meat off this package."

But in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that came out a couple of days ago (PDF) and was the subject of much too little discussion, it became clear that the public hates the Bowles/Simpson plan. And I mean huge percentages of the public across the political spectrum. As Chuck Todd and his crew reported:

... a whopping 70% of adults say they are uncomfortable with cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and defense programs -- which just happen to be the biggest sources of federal spending. Another 59% say they're uncomfortable about raising taxes (on gasoline, for example) or changing the tax code (like eliminating deductions on home mortgages) to reduce the deficit. And another 57% are uncomfortable about raising the Social Security retirement age to 69 by 2075 to reduce the deficit.

Now, here's the best part:

What was even more amazing about this data: Fully 36% of EVERYONE we surveyed said they were uncomfortable on all THREE facets of the debt commission proposals. Nearly half of that 36% are African-American (46%) and the other half, self-described conservatives (46%).

Or, to put it another way:

Those who say they're most uncomfortable with these suggestions -- those who are against all three -- make up a group of strange bedfellows who are rarely aligned on policy matters: core Republicans and Tea Partiers as well as blacks, Latinos, union members, and suburban women.

And, in fact:

In the survey, Republicans were more negative than Democrats on the plan. Nearly half of Republicans called it a "bad idea" ....

In recent years, just about the only time public outrage has worked in the service of policies I support was when such outrage prevented George W. Bush from beginning the privatization of Social Security. That was one third rail. We're talking about multiple third rails here.

Ah, but won't the GOP just force a stalemate and blame it on Obama? Sure, that's the plan -- but I'm intrigued by Zandar's take on this:

Here's the problem with this particular game of chicken: The people that stand to lose the most here, especially from the threat of a sovereign debt default, are the investor class. They are the ones who spent billions to get the GOP into power, and the threat of default will annihilate the bond market. The big players, especially the hedge fund giants, stand to lose hundreds of billions from a treasury meltdown as interest rates on long bonds skyrocket and yields drop like lead elephants on gravity steroids....

Obama can win this battle if he holds his ground....

The Republicans will get reined in on this one damn quick. Count on it.

I'm usually not very good at identifying glimmers of hope, but is it possible that the crazy Republicans might get caught between a rock and a hard place on this?

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