Community activists in Washington, DC on Tuesday took the opportunity of a morning Q&A breakfast with the nation's premiere 'deficit scolds'—former Republican senator from Wyoming Alan Simpson and establishment Democrat Erskine Bowles—to declare that the pair's recommended policies unfairly punish the sick, the elderly and working people in the name of a 'deficit reduction' plan backed by the nation's wealthiest beneficiaries and corporate elite.
"At a time of Gilded Age inequality, they seek to exact more pain from an already declining middle class – and get the president and Democrats to offer bipartisan cover." - Robert Borosage, Campaign for America's Future
Five protestors, rising at intervals, disrupted the Politico-sponsored event held at a Newseum conference room, pressed the two men to defend the inequity and misguided nature of their proposals. Each was removed, in turn, by security officials.
"Some cuts don't heal," the National Journal reports one protester repeating as he was escorted from the room. "How could you entertain the fact that you want to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security?" he asked, before being escorted out by security.
ABC News adds:
As the interview began, a man rose in the front row to protest their suggested cuts to entitlement programs.
“Pay your fair share of taxes,” the man shouted as Newseum security escorted him out. “Pay your fair share.”
“We’ll bring you into the discussion,” Allen told him.
After the interview resumed, three more protesters rose to interrupt the event in sequence and were removed. According to a man filming the protesters on an iPad, they are members of the liberal group Our DC, which has organized protests on Capitol Hill in the past.
Simpson and Bowles this morning released a rehashed plan to cut the deficit and reshape America’s fiscal outlook. They appeared at the Politico event to promote their new proposal.
According to the National Journal:
OurDC, a non-profit focused on bringing jobs to the District of Columbia, was behind the protest, a spokesman said. The group strives, according to its website, to ensure "the voices of unemployed and under employed city residents are heard and listened to in local and national dialogs on jobs and job creation."
The protest was orchestrated to maximize disruption, with each protester standing up and speaking out as another was escorted from the room.
Commenting on the new Bowles-Simpson framework overall, MSNBC's Ned Reskikoff says it's much like the old plan—which did not even muster majority approval from the bi-partisan commission they were appointed to co-chair in 2010—except their new one has, "more cuts!"
"The plan includes cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, 'reforms' to Social Security [read chained CPI] and the elimination or reduction of various tax deductions," says Resnikoff. "Notably, many of the most significant cuts seem to fall on programs which benefit seniors."
And the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, along with an explanation of the plan's essential points, posted this graph to show the new plan—dubbed Simpson-Bowles 2.0—is far heavier on cuts to social programs, with less strident plans for raising revenue from taxes:
But, as many economists continue to declare and the Campaign for America's Future co-founder Robert Borosage argues in an op-ed on Tuesday, we don't have an entitlement problem or a spending problem, we have an austerity problem and a healthcare cost problem.
"As economist Dean Baker has shown," writes Borosage, "if we paid anything near what European nations pay per capita for health care that produces better results, we would be projecting surpluses as far as the eye can see."
Instead, he argues—taking the side of the protesters who took the time to combat the public relations breakfast on Tuesday—policy-makers subscribing to proposals by Bowles-Simpson are making the elderly and middle-class taxpayers "victims of a classic example of shock doctrine" in which the right uses "an economic calamity to roll back social protections."
"At a time of Gilded Age inequality, they seek to exact more pain from an already declining middle class – and get the president and Democrats to offer bipartisan cover."
"It’s a jackal time," Borosage warned, "and it’s likely to get worse."