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Real Fiscal Responsibility II

EconomistMom writes, putting it very well:

But Really, Fiscal Responsibility Is Easier Under a Benevolent Dictatorship: When it comes to promoting fiscal responsibility and working with Heritage, there’s always been a tension between the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour’s message that everything is on the table (the need to consider both spending restraint and revenue increases to address the long-term fiscal challenge), and the (mandated) resistance of the conservative members of the tour toward tax increases.  So moving to the “least common denominator” in terms of solutions will naturally mean that the group as a whole becomes a bit too silent on tax policy.  (Note:  Nowhere in the Brookings mission does it utter the word “liberal”, suggesting that the Brookings-Heritage partnerships are naturally going to fail to be as balanced as one might wish)...

Precisely: Heritage-Brookings presents itself as balanced, but it isn't. Brookings might be able to present itself as balanced, but it shouldn't present its partnerships with Heritage as balanced.

Only EPI-Heritage or CBPP-Heritage should be allowed to present themselves as balanced.

And this is, in fact, the reason that Henry Aaron, Bob Greenstein, and Bob Solow got worked up about TBOFF: it's that the structure guaranteed a somewhat counterproductive document. Yet somehow this getting-worked-up surprises EconomistMom:

I have been surprised that people have gotten so worked up... attached some sort of malicious intent to the budget process proposal.  I honestly think the process proposal was a lot more a ”fallback” position, the strongest policy recommendation the group as a whole could unanimously agree on.... Obviously substantive reform to the entitlement and tax programs would be better than just budget process reform--the TBOFF (Brookings-Heritage) group would agree.  But getting to specifics is difficult in practice when you have to work across the aisle, and I think that’s the lesson we should take away in comparing the TBOFF paper with the CBPP paper.  If people come to the policy negotiation table with preconditions about what they cannot bring to the table (e.g., Heritage having trouble bringing the Bush tax cuts to the table), then the “bipartisanship” won’t produce anything of substance--just something like TBOFF.

To which my response is that often process determines substance: they cannot be separated in the way EM believes.