Erskine Bowles

For more coverage of the debt commission report, read Jonathan Chait and Jonathan Cohn. Senator Alan Simpson, the chairman of the bipartisan deficit commission, spent much of his life scolding people for being dependent on Social Security and Medicare and complaining that they didn’t save enough. Now, based on the draft proposal released yesterday, it appears that he and his co-chairman Erskine Bowles never departed from this attitude in steering their thinking. Given the state of the economy, the co-chairs’ report reads like a document from Mars.

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Unlike some other liberals, I have no problem with the deficit commission to reduce the unsustainably large long-term deficit. I do have a problem with the fact that the Democratic co-chairman of the commission, Erskine Bowles, proposes that the commission's plan hold federal spending at 21% of GDP. As Matt Miller notes, government spending averaged 22% of GDP during the Reagan administration.

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It is now conventional wisdom that the Obama administration and congressional Democrats haven’t been able to sell the people on the merits of their economic program. Even so, the results of the most recent Pew Research Center survey are startling. To begin, substantial majorities believe that the policies of the past two years have benefitted the wealthy (57 percent), large corporations (70 percent), and large banks and financial institutions (74 percent).

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Last week, CBO issued its analysis of President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2011. The news was not encouraging. Here are the basic findings: “If the President’s proposals were enacted, the federal government would record deficits of $1.5 trillion in 2010 and $1.3 trillion in 2011. These deficits would amount to 10.3 percent and 8.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) respectively.” “Measured relative to the size of the economy, the deficit under the President’s proposals would fall to about 4 percent of GDP by 2014 but would rise steadily thereafter.

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The Chief

You think it’s so great being Rahm Emanuel?

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The news media has a lot of biases, but the most pronounced is a bias in favor of fiscal conservatism. I mean the term in its old fashioned sense -- the belief in the primacy of balanced budgets. Indeed, this point of view is so widespread among elites, including the news media, that they fail to recognize it as a point of view at all. Take a look at Brian Williams' interview with Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of the new debt commission.

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Ben Smith flags an N&O squib about some kind words Richard Burr and Erskine Bowles had for one another at a recent event in Durham, North Carolina. Burr, of course, defeated Bowles in the race to succeed John Edwards back in 2004: "I've had a chance to work with this guy for four full years and nobody works harder or smarter for North Carolina than Richard Burr does," Bowles told about 200 people at N.C. Central University.

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Personality Test

Erskine Bowles likes to say that he is not a politician--which might seem strange considering that he's running to replace Jesse Helms as a U.S. senator from North Carolina. But watching Bowles campaign at a nursing home outside of Greensboro one recent summer morning, it was easy to understand his oft-repeated disclaimer. Several dozen seniors were gathered in the facility's dreary dining room, more than a couple of them nodding off despite the breakfast cleanup loudly taking place in the adjoining kitchen.

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Rahmbo

Surveying the current state of uncertainty in the White House, one can't help but wonder whether things would be different if Rahm Emanuel were alive. In the corporeal sense, of course, the presidential counselor is still very much above ground. But, as far as the White House is concerned, its veteran cheerleader is history. On the day the Starr report hit, as the White House scrambled to respond, Emanuel had more important concerns: his wife had just given birth to their second child. And, at the end of October, Emanuel will quit his job to take a teaching post at Northwestern University. Col

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Wonderwonk

In this 1998 piece, Dana Milbank profiles Kagan the intellectual.

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