The Priorities of Our Elites.

I liked my colleague Adam Serwer's take on the deficit-reduction proposal from committee Co-Chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson:

But as an expression of the values of political elites, this document is appalling. It recommends that veterans pay for their combat injuries, working people take a payroll tax hike and social security benefits get cut so the government can offer large reductions in taxes for corporations and people in the top income bracket. Conservatives will try to argue that it offers more generous social security benefits for the poor, but it raises the retirement age so, as Paul Krugman points out, those who would benefit are also less likely to live long enough to do so. There's a lot of preening babble about sacrifice from the austerity crowd, but what it comes down to is the idea that the deficit should be balanced at any cost as long as it doesn't involve rich people paying more money.

This proposal has no legs, but that doesn't mean I can't be offended by it, because honestly, offense is the only reasonable reaction to a plan that does everything it can to avoid raising taxes on the wealthy. Bowles and Simpson demand "tough" sacrifice from those who have the least: they make draconian cuts to services and programs, ask retirees and veterans to pay more for health care, and impose regressive tax hikes on working people and seniors, through increasing payroll taxes and raising the retirement age.

Sure, they eliminate deductions and credits that mostly benefit rich people and corporations, but not before lowering their income taxes by more than a third. To say nothing of the budget cap, which would cripple progressive governance by capping revenue and spending at 21 percent of GDP. In other words, rich people get to keep more of their money, and the rest of us can fight over the scraps, while enjoying the privilege of working until we are 69, or until we drop dead. Whichever comes first.

Judging from its mostly positive reception, Adam is right to say that this proposal is a reflection of elite values. And what do our elites value? Anything that puts the burden of deficit reduction on the people least able to bear it.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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