The White House (and the NRCC) End Debt-Panic Politics

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 20 2014 3:59 PM

The White House (and the NRCC) End Debt-Panic Politics

103769117-florida-democratic-gubernatorial-candidate-alex-sink
Alex Sink pays the price for speaking with even the vaguest degree of specificity.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

TAMPA—Across the bay, before my plane landed, Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink opened herself up to a Republican attack. The setting was ironic: She was meeting with, and talking to reporters with, some Republicans who'd endorsed her. As Adam Smith reports, she took the moment to talk about bipartisan solutions for deficit reduction.

My approach is we have got to bring down the trillion dollar deficits. They are not sustainable. The question is how do we go about doing it. I think we go back and at least dust off the Simpson-Bowles. I’m sure I’m not going to agree with everything that was in it, but it was a bipartisan group of people who said ‘this is one path forward.’ Let’s see which aspects of that we have agreement on.
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That's a pretty meaningless and unspecific statement. Not agreeing with "everything in" Simpson-Bowles could mean absolutely anything. Here's the hook, though: The National Republican Congressional Committee attacked Sink because it sounded like she endorsed austerity.

Alex Sink supports a plan that raises the retirement age for Social Security recipients, raises social security taxes and cuts Medicare all while making it harder for Pinellas seniors to keep their doctors that they know and love.

She didn't quite say that, but by sounding like she was sort of open to maybe sort of shrinking mandatory spending, the NRCC had its attack line. And it's not a new line. Today the White House announced (via mysterious aides) that its 2014 budget would not, as progressives feared, include cost-of-living-based reductions to Social Security payouts. That's a change from 2013, when the White House acquiesced to the demands of pundits who demanded they propose at least some sort of entitlement reform. The pundits were sort of pleased. The NRCC? It pronounced the cuts to be a "shocking attack on seniors."

Deficit politics: still dead, and maybe deader than ever.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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