Former Sen. Judd Gregg’s heart is in the right place—but it’s also terribly conflicted.
After agreeing to serve in the cabinet of President Obama’s first administration, the former New Hampshire senator withdrew his nomination. “I’m a fiscal conservative, as everybody knows, a fairly strong one,” he said at the time. “And it just became clear to me that it would be very difficult, day in and day out, to serve in this cabinet or any cabinet. … It was my mistake, obviously, to say yes.”
Gregg presently has another idea for furthering bipartisan cooperation in Washington—a long-term compromise on taxes and spending. But if you look at his proposal closely, it becomes clear that Gregg, as in 2009, talks a big game, but ultimately, if you will, withdraws his nomination.
Here is Gregg’s grand bargain, as outlined in The Hill newspaper:
There is a path forward. It is just not either of the ones that the primary players have identified. It is a path that does not require brinkmanship governance; nor does it require either side to sacrifice its core beliefs. …
In its simplest terms it involves an agreement to adjust entitlements through changes that do not result in near-term impacts of great significance — but which lead to dramatic long-term changes that make them affordable for the country and the next generation which has to pay for them.
Taking this long-view approach would allow the parties to leap over the short-term fights regarding Obamacare and lock in place policies that will ultimately lead to a fundamental correction in course.
The second part of the agreement is an all-out commitment to produce fundamental tax reform. The template for this is already in place, via the Simpson-Bowles Commission. It gives both sides what they need in a dramatic and effective way: Much lower rates for Republicans and progressivity for Democrats. Such an approach would, in all likelihood, also produce a lot more revenue through growth and the elimination of special deductions and exemptions.
The first half of Gregg’s compromise proposal makes sense. I favor something like it myself: Call a truce over short-term spending. Let the economy heal. Home in on modest reforms to Social Security and Medicare. It’s the second part—fundamental tax reform—where Gregg flies off the rails. He invokes the sacred name of the Bowles-Simpson Commission, but it’s a smokescreen. “Much lower rates” paid for by reducing tax expenditures and growth from new revenue was the essence of the Mitt Romney’s tax proposal.
Gregg is saying that “both sides can back this approach”: the Romney plan plus entitlement cuts.