I'm both disappointed and surprised that the deficit reduction committee's preliminary report has received such universal scorn. Perhaps I was overly optimistic, but I thought this select committee could provide some political cover and still advance ways to seriously address our growing financial crisis.
At this point, it appears I was simply wrong.
I operate under a singular rule of thumb. If a plan is opposed by both conservatives and liberals, it probably has merit.
Conservatives are growing wary of any increased taxes and liberals want no talk of reduced government benefits. The deficit reduction study calls for both.
Rush Limbaugh makes the point that the recommendations address costs within certain programs but he argues that we should instead honestly gauge the effectiveness of the programs themselves - not just the costs.
And there is a point to his position. But we're at the point where some progress is better than none whatsoever. That's why I held out such hope for the committee's recommendations.
But to avoid getting the cart before the horse, the committee recommendations are still a couple of weeks away. What we learned this past week was just the first shot fired in what is likely to be a protracted battle.
I have no opposition to raising the retirement age as long as it's coupled with a spending cut in federal programs. Freeze salaries at the federal level and order an across-the-board spending cut. That makes sense.
The idea of eliminating a host of tax deductions makes perfect sense if coupled with a reduction in the overall tax rate.
The American public gets high blood pressure when the issue of earmarks is discussed. But keep in mind that earmarks - though unpopular in most quarters - are just a drop in the bucket compared to the entitlement cows that are dooming our economy.
If you cut entitlements and aggressively address waste and fraud, discussion of an economic crisis would evaporate.
But elected officials keep their jobs by pandering to those who hire them. And given that framework, I'm less than encouraged that any of the deficit committee's recommendation will ever see the light of day.
One final thought:
When "experts" on both sides of the economic question take the same information and come to completely different conclusions, then perhaps neither are actually "experts."