If you had asked me this morning, "Hey, what is the most grotesquely 'Washington' thing that will happen this week," I definitely would have said, "The most grotesquely 'Washington' thing that happened this week was that time that John Harris and Jim VandeHei wrote about that time they allowed themselves to be auto-erotically asphyxiated by 'insiders' and came away believing that they'd lucked into an explanation of how the next great economic 'boom' could happen." But now, it's Wednesday afternoon, and I'm not too sure, because Lanny Davis and Michael Steele nominated "Simpson-Bowles" for "Time Magazine Person of the Year."
Davis and Steele work for "Purple Nation Solutions," which -- like Americans Elect and No Labels and any organization that has featured Harold Ford Jr. as a keynote speaker -- is part of the "Get Rich Centrist Idiots To Part With Their Money" industrial complex. This is a pretty great hustle, because there are lots of hedge fund manager twits and Beltway cocktail circuit elites who believe all the problems the country is facing have come about because of "excessive partisan bickering" and if the "two sides" could just "come together" and "make the tough choices," then everything would be fine.
In practical terms, the perpetrators of this hustle demand that Republicans dial down the nativist/Christian conservative crankery and that Democrats adopt traditionally Republican policies on the economy, entitlements, and regulation wholesale and not gripe about it. And in recent months, "Simpson-Bowles" -- referring to the "Simpson-Bowles plan" that was never passed by the "Simpson-Bowles Commission" -- has reached near-totemic esteem in the eyes of all who participate in the "Get Rich Centrist Idiots To Part With Their Money" industrial complex.
So, of course, here's Lanny Davis and Michael Steele, nominating a cafeteria menu of budget and tax cut ideas to be the "Time Magazine Person Of The Year." (Which totally makes sense, because the "Time Magazine Person Of The Year" tradition is also a hustle.)
From their press release:
This morning on a teleconference moderated by LEVICK’s Michael W. Robinson, former White House special counsel Lanny Davis, and former chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele nominated “Simpson-Bowles” to be TIME Magazine’s Person of The Year.
Michael stated, “It reflects the bipartisanship the American people are looking for, and would hope will emerge in Washington. At least two individuals put information in front of the American people that challenges the status quo. I highly support that and have been an advocate of the value that Simpson-Bowles brings to the debate.”
It takes a special kind of astigmatism to look at "Simpson-Bowles" and see something that "challenges the status quo." Pete Peterson and his Peter G. Peterson Foundation have labored for years and spent a small mint of money to make much of this a reality. As Dave Weigel explains in a lengthy piece on Peterson's undertaking, it was all for naught getting anyone to even notice his efforts outside the Beltway until he convinced Alan Simpson to do the "Gangnam Style" dance alongside a jackass in a soda can costume.
But the one place Peterson's policy prescriptives have had any currency is in Washington, with the city's clapped-out political toffs. "Simpson-Bowles" is the latest, greatest manifestation of Peterson's desire, but this is an old story and not a "challenge" to an entrenched "status quo."
Davis, in the press release, goes on to insist that "This is a purple bipartisan moment. No political party has stepped up to the line."
But "Simpson-Bowles" has never stood a chance of becoming something "bipartisan." People just think that because they don't actually understand what the "Simpson-Bowles plan" entails. As Alex Pareene explained:
That is basically the way the press and most of Washington talk about the deficit, the “fiscal cliff” and the deficit reduction “framework” endorsed by two old white guys named Simpson and Bowles. No one actually knows or cares what’s in the actual Simpson-Bowles plan, but at this point it doesn’t actually matter. Here’s Fred Barnes counseling Republicans to endorse Simpson-Bowles despite the fact that it includes the expiration of all Bush tax cuts, a thing he does not support. Here’s reasonable old David Gergen warning that Democrats are overreaching by asking for more than $1 trillion in new revenue, and invoking Simpson-Bowles yet again as an example of the Proper Way to do a Grand Bargain. Simpson-Bowles includes more than $2 trillion in new revenue.
As soon as you come to grips with the fact that "The Simpson Bowles Plan" is a plan that calls for the expiration of all the Bush tax cuts (followed only then by comprehensive tax reform) and for raising twice as much revenue as the Democrats are willing to ask for, it should not be that hard to understand why "The Simpson Bowles Plan" is in no way close to having a "bipartisan moment." But I'll go further and point out that the "Simpson-Bowles Plan's" Social Security prescriptives -- such as raising the retirement age (to 68 by 2050) -- are similar non-starters, and the only "bipartisan" thing about the plan, is that there is bipartisan antipathy for it.
Do I think that Steele and Davis have accounted for the fact that the plan they've endorsed to be the "Time Magazine Person of the Year" calls for the full repeal of the Bush tax cuts and and $2 trillion in new revenue? I don't know. But I know it doesn't matter, because this is all just part of the same dumb hustle.
So that's what the Beltway dimwiterati have been up to so far this week, and it's only Wednesday evening.
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