A close look at President Obama’s newly announced “deficit commission” shows that instead of creating an independent-minded panel, he’s created his own personal special-interest group, made up of members as in love with big spending and averse to real spending cuts as he is.
Mr. Obama - the biggest spender in presidential history - created the commission by executive order (after the Senate failed to do so), ostensibly to give him recommendations on deficit and debt reduction and spending control. It’s supposed to offer ways to bring down the federal deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2015, compared with 10 percent currently, and to constrain the surging costs of huge entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Mr. Obama has also asked the commission to look at the tax code in order to consider tax increases. And therein lies its real reason for being. Any sentient human being knows this is simply a cover to raise taxes on everyone, particularly the middle class, for whom Mr. Obama promised no tax increases. “If you make less than $250,000 a year, your taxes will not go up - not by one penny,” he said incessantly during the campaign. So much for that.
The commission is supposed to be “bipartisan,” but its makeup is decidedly tilted toward liberals thoroughly invested in Mr. Obama’s big-government agenda. Mr. Obama gave himself the privilege of picking six of the 18 commission positions. Democrats in Congress get to choose another six, so ultimately, the Democrats get 12 seats, the Republicans get six. Viva “bipartisanship!”
Mr. Obama has announced that former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson will lead the commission. Neither Mr. Bowles nor Mr. Simpson have a record of fondness for tax cuts. That’s to be expected of Democrat Mr. Bowles, but Mr. Simpson’s role is more problematic. He has criticized pro-growth tax cuts and supported tax increases when what’s needed now is a mix of deep spending cuts, elimination of unneeded programs and tax cuts. Of course, that’s precisely why Mr. Obama selected him.
Mr. Obama’s other choices also tell the impending tax hike tale. In his most brazenly political choice, Mr. Obama selected Andy Stern, president of the huge Service Employees International Union (SEIU), to sit on the commission. Last year, Mr. Stern bragged about his union’s investment in Mr. Obama: “We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama - $60.7 million to be exact - and we’re proud of it.”
Mr. Stern, the most frequent White House visitor, has ensured that the SEIU has been a major beneficiary of the administration’s big spending. He guided much of the secretive deal-making on Obamacare, guaranteeing special union exemptions, such as the long delay and higher threshold for the excise tax on high-end insurance plans. Unions, largely thanks to the bare-knuckled leverage applied by Mr. Stern, have gotten enormous payoffs in the stimulus and auto bailouts. All this despite the fact that union costs are imploding state and local governments. Nobody honestly believes that Mr. Stern is going to argue for any spending cuts - which is precisely why Mr. Obama selected him.
Another Obama commission choice may have a significant conflict-of-interest. Ann Fudge, a former CEO of Young and Rubicam Brands, was a major Obama campaign fundraiser and serves on the board of directors of pharmaceutical giant Novartis. The Obama administration struck a sweetheart deal with Novartis and other pharmaceutical companies that would keep the industry’s cost to $80 billion over 10 years under Obamacare. Ms. Fudge’s relationship with Novartis suggests she may have a professional and lucrative interest in seeing the Democrats’ deficit-busting, debt-exploding health care “reform” become law. How can she be objective about ways to cut the deficit and overall spending when she’s got a vested interest in promoting the Democrats’ $2 trillion new health care entitlement? Answer: She can’t.
Neither of Mr. Obama’s other choices inspire much confidence. David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell International, is said to be a Republican but did not vote for Sen. John McCain in 2008 and supported the monstrous $862 billion economic “stimulus” last year. Alice Rivlin, President Clinton’s White House budget director, was part of an administration that worked with a Republican Congress to reduce the deficit and produce a budget surplus. But that was the same administration that also ratcheted up the Community Reinvestment Act, the policy germ that diseased the entire economy via the subprime mortgage crisis.
Of course, the president can choose whomever he’d like for this commission. It’s a great reminder that elections have consequences.
Mr. Obama’s choices show how fundamentally unserious he is about deficit reduction and spending restraint. Like the ongoing health care pantomime, this commission is a cynical farce, meant to distract Americans from the fact that Mr. Obama has generated a deficit greater than the deficits of all of his predecessors combined, that he continues down an unprecedented big spending path and that he’s about to break his campaign promise and raise taxes on the middle class in order to fund his vast expansion of government.
The commission is a predetermined joke. But Americans won’t be laughing when Mr. Obama feigns pain as he tells us he’s reluctantly adopting its recommendation to raise their taxes.
Monica Crowley is a nationally syndicated radio host, a panelist on “The McLaughlin Group” and a Fox News contributor.