Controversy and difficulty: necessary ingredients for our modern budget stew

I’ve become a big fan of Dan Carlin, not only for his “Hardcore History,” the best history podcast in existence, but also for his “Common Sense,” a political podcast aimed at advancing an independent agenda in American politics. My following of Carlin and the blogger Andrew Sullivan are probably the biggest reasons I’ve seen my internal locus-of-thought move more toward a Whiggish center from the more traditional liberalism I adopted after I left school. I guess I’ve finally learned that I am at my happiest when my views are complicated and unlikely to meet the favor of most people around me at any given time. This should serve me well in today’s 8th congressional district in northern Minnesota, where some crazy things are going to happen in the next 10 years provided we can keep the republic.

Anyway, to that end, take a look at the Simpson-Bowles report from the Debt Commission chartered by President Obama. The main reason I’ve maintained my support of the president is because, despite the frothing he seems to inspire by the political extremes in this country, particularly from the right, I still believe he is serious about finding workable, non-ideological solutions to the nation’s current existential problems. There remains question as to whether he will succeed, but most of the howling about him you hear is hyped up political spin. This bipartisan debt report has been blasted by the left and the right, including Democratic and Republican party leadership. Democrats are furious over changes to Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid. Republicans are furious over new tax structures that include increases in some taxes, most notably the gas tax. That suggests to me that this commission has figured out a balanced solution that probably does something effective.

I want to point out the interview U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota) gave this morning on Good Morning America.

Conrad, in supporting the report despite criticism from within his own party, said, “There is no way of doing it that’s not controversial or difficult … If some of us have to sacrifice a political career to get this country back on track, then so be it.”

And increasingly, despite how much I know these ideas infuriate some of my political friends, I am adopting the same belief. If we’re not willing to sacrifice just a tiny bit of our government entitlements or tax dollars to save the highly-successful, deeply enviable experiment we call America, well, then why should we assume that we continue to be “great” by any stretch of the definition? Start with this idea, and then explain to me a better idea that balances the budget and reduces the debt. It’s all cuts or tax increases. Name your cuts. Name your tax increases.


  1. Shared sacrifice. That’s the Bowles-Simpson message. Yesterday was Veterans Day. Beyond “thanking us for our service,” does anyone in the crowd look in the mirror?

    National service. The common defense. Pledging our lives and our sacred honor.

    Now dig into your sacred wallet and checkbook! We have done it, Patriots and TeaPartiers.
    Now it’s your turn. -Gord

  2. I agree with you about Dan Carlin. He really makes history sound urgent.

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