Bowles-Simpson came back into style last week. Not only did the plan receive eight mentions during the first presidential debate; it was also the subject of a widely circulated and discussed New York Times story. For those that may have forgotten, Bowles-Simpson (or BS for short) was President Obama’s ill-fated debt commission that promised a $2 trillion tax hike on the American people.
Although neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama supported the BS plan last week, the plan is finding renewed support among a small, bipartisan group of Senators. According to the New York Times, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) are concocting another legislative scheme designed to enable a grand bargain. Rather than using the threat of a so-called sequester to compel action, their plan is to use the BS plan, along with its $2 trillion tax hike, as a backstop.
Just like the Budget Control Act, which allowed for a $2.4 trillion increase in the nation’s debt ceiling and provided for the ill-fated “super committee” and the reckless defense sequester, the Alexander-Bennet plan is destined for failure.
However, if lawmakers are committed to some procedural gimmick that enables them to shirk responsibility, I’ll humbly offer a suggestion: a coin flip.
Let me explain how a coin flip Congress could work.
Each political party would be responsible for drafting a comprehensive budget (this could be problematic for Democrats considering left-leaning Senators haven’t drafted a budget in years) that would serve as their plan to reform Washington.
The Republican plan could look like the Ryan Budget, the RSC Budget or even Heritage’s Saving the American Dream Plan. The Democrat Budget could look like President Obama’s budget, the Progressive Budget or the Center for American Progress’s plan.
Not only would these comprehensive plans serve as a basis for negotiations (it’s hard to negotiate with someone like Harry Reid who has no position), but they would serve as an ultimatum for lawmakers. If they did not meet their arbitrary goals within their arbitrary timeline, one of the two plans would become law. Which plan would be decided by the flip of a coin, and not one of those absurd commemorative coins either.
Imagine the optics. It would be like the coin toss at the Super Bowl. A unionized coin flipper (there was stimulus money for that you know) would appear before the political parties’ respective captains. While politicians are certainly not Jerry Rice or Joe Montana, the tension would be palpable as they stood on the fields of Antietam waiting for the future of the country to be decided.
Then, with an authoritative flip of a coin a shiny Lincoln-embossed penny, America would either empower the entrepreneurial spirit of free people or careen toward a dependency-driven European-style collapse.
Of course, no reasonable person would suggest America’s future as a nation be subjected to a coin flip; to seriously suggest such a thing would require “a willing suspension of disbelief.” Unfortunately, the notion that closed-door collaboration between eight senators with a combined Heritage Action score of 41% will produce good policy requires a logical leap of the same magnitude.
Remember, just last week both candidates for the presidency distanced themselves from the BS plan to raise taxes by $2 trillion; yet, at the same time, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mike Bennet (D-CO), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Warner (D-VA) are creating a backdoor to allow that very same tax hike to hit hardworking Americans.
And you can bet that during a lame-duck session of Congress, all the usual suspects will be in the mix too, including, Senators Scott Brown (R-MA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).
Americans are understandably frustrated with Washington. For decades, the politicians, bureaucrats and special interest groups have been perpetuating themselves while giving lip service to the American people. Crafting congressional procedure is no substitute to for real leadership.