One of the many ways Paul Ryan scandalized the media-political class in his Tampa convention speech was to criticize President Obama for walking away from the report of his own 2010 deficit commission co-chaired by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson.
How dare the upstart Republican blister Mr. Obama when Mr. Ryan himself refused to endorse the final product! Mr. Ryan even had the impudence to say that Mr. Obama “did exactly nothing” as a result of Simpson-Bowles or Mr. Ryan’s own budget proposals or any others, “nothing except to dodge and demagogue the issue.”
Media elites are now using this to absolve Mr. Obama and suggest that Simpson-Bowles would have succeeded if not for the all-powerful House Budget Chairman. This rewrites history, so allow us to remind readers what really happened to the Obama deficit commission.
Mr. Obama created the panel in February 2010, without a trace of irony, after he had raised federal spending to post-World War II highs. His political goal was to blunt attacks on his overspending, while also trying to lure Republicans into becoming tax collectors for his agenda in the name of a balanced budget. Mr. Simpson is the kind of Republican who had fallen for this in the past.
So it was a pleasant surprise when Messrs. Simpson and Bowles instead endorsed a more efficient and competitive tax code. Their draft swapped fewer brackets and lower rates for fewer loopholes and “tax expenditures.” The appeal for Democrats is that tax revenue would grow with a faster-growing economy, and Republicans would have to accept a net tax increase reaching 21% of GDP. That’s far higher than the historic average between 18% and 19% and above the modern high of 20.9% in 1944.