This article was also crossposted at Newsbusters.org
If we're to believe a report by Heidi Przybyla at Bloomberg News on August 13, the country might be operating under bipartisan deficit-reduction framework instead of being without a budget for over three years if it weren't for Wisconsin Congressman and GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Her lead: "Representative Paul Ryan was a pivotal figure in killing the 2010 Bowles-Simpson agreement, which Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney now holds out as a model for putting America’s fiscal house in order."
There are many deceptions and unsupported assertions in Przybyla's report, but before getting to some of the others, many of which relate to her inability to recognize objective truth, the two most important related to her treatment of President Obama's role in the rejection of Simpson-Bowles:
First, using classic "mean Republican attacks" phrasing, she wrote that imminent GOP Romney "has criticized Obama for not embracing the debt reduction package." Obama didn't merely "not embrace" Simpson-Bowles; after seeing the fellow far-leftists in Congress go apoplectic over it ("House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the plan "simply unacceptable." Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist, denounced it as 'absurd'"), he damned it with faint praise and then acted as if it didn't exist. In February, after reading Larry Summers' assertions about the White House's take on the plan, the American Enterprise Institute's James Pethokoukis nicely bottom-lined the reality: "Obama rejected Bowles-Simpson because it capped spending and taxes (both revenue and rates) at too low a level for the Big Government future he envisions."
Second, as Przybyla notes late in her report, Obama compromised the commission's work from the beginning, eliminating any possibility that Ryan or any other Republican could be reasonably expected to support it: "'The instruction for Bowles and Simpson was to leave health care alone,' said (Oklahoma GOP Senator Tom) Coburn. 'Obama didn’t want it touched.'" Thus, there was never a chance that Obama would accept a reality-based solution. The creation of the commission was an exercise in kicking the can past the November 2010 elections in an attempt to minimize the electoral damage his administration's trillion-dollar deficits were causing.
As will be seen later, the Bloomberg writer didn't acknowledge that Obama rejected Simpson Bowles until near the very end of her report.
The Bloomberg reporter's other flaw is her strange belief that, like the Koch brothers and the NRA, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform holds some kind of magical power over Republican Congressmen and Senators which takes away their free will and eliminates any chance that they might vote for a tax increase. In doing so, she several times pretends that items appearing in black and white in the Simpson Bowles plan are representations made by Norquist which are somehow open to interpretation. They're not:
- Przybyla, Paragraph 3: "House Republicans who rejected it were beholden to an argument by anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist that the measure was tantamount to a tax increase" — That's wasn't Norquist's opinion; it's an objective fact that Simpson Bowles envisioned tax increases. At Page 30 in the report (large PDF), the commission says that "In additional to reducing rates, reform must be projected to raise $80 billion of additional revenue (relative to the alternative fiscal scenario) in 2015 and $180 billion in 2020." That's a net tax increase, and I didn't need Grover Norquist to tell me that.
- Przybyla, Paragraph 20, in broken-record mode: "Yet Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, says the House Republicans understood that the plan was tantamount to a tax increase." No, the commission did.
- Przybyla, Paragraph: "Norquist is the sponsor of an anti-tax pledge that many Republicans have signed. He said that the Bowles- Simpson plan would have taken taxes from about 18 percent of gross domestic product to 21 percent." Other, again, the commission said that, this time on Page 28: "Under our plan, revenue reaches 21 percent of GDP by 2022 and is then capped at that level." Mr. Norquist isn't one of the plan's authors, Heidi.
I have learned that ATR has requested that Bloomberg update Przybyla's sloppy and deceptive writeup to reflect that the report itself says in black and white what she will only acknowledge that Norquist "said." Unsurprisingly, that hasn't happened, at least not at the URL of her original report.
Then there's the matter of whether Romney buys into the tax-increase element of Simpson-Bowles. Despite Przybyla's attempt to make readers believe that he does ("Mitt Romney now holds out [Simpson-Bowles] as a model for putting America’s fiscal house in order"), he really doesn't, as seen in mid-June at the Washington Post:
Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney senior adviser, said Romney “has embraced the Simpson-Bowles approach of putting all of our tax expenditures on the table and determining which ones it makes the most sense to eliminate” but “where he departs from Simpson-Bowles is in support for a tax increase… he believes our problem is not that taxes are too low, but that spending is too high.”
Finally, Przybyla's entire premise is based on a speculation so wild that it's hard to believe anyone would try to assert it: "Ryan’s support would have likely drawn votes from (Republican commission members) Camp and possibly Hensarling and made it all but impossible for the president to reject a plan created by his own self- appointed commission." As seen earlier, the commission in essence recommended a government which wouldn't be as dominant as President Obama desires. What's "all but impossible" is that Obama would have accepted it as it was released under any circumstances.