After Obama's speech, Greenstein gave an analysis of Obamas deficit reduction plan which I completely agreed with. However, he qualified his praise for Obama's deficit plan by saying that, while to the left of Bowles-Simpson, it was to the right of Rivlin-Domenici, which many progressives, for reasons I don't understand, prefer. Paul Krugman, who like me has absolute faith in Greenstein, basically planted Rivlin-Domenici as the most left of the 4 major plans (2 commissions, Obama, Ryan). This has me troubled, since this is now being repeated among progrossives and I completely disagree. I figured I would explain myself by looking at 2 central areas where Rivlin-Domenici falls short imo, i.e. Taxes(relative to perception) and Medicare(relative to any plan out there besides Ryan):
Greenstein uses the simple formula of measuring the ratio of spending cuts to tax increases. Obama is at a 2:1 ratio where Rivlin-Domenici is 1:1. But Greenstein makes the mistake of assuming that ALL tax increases are good. Rivlin-Domenici has a lot of revenues coming from a 6.5%(I think) VAT that is extremely regressive and is harmful to low and middle income americans. Obama's plan for revenues is basically $1 Trillion in loopholes, subsidies, and various deductions capped for the top 2%, plus an additional 700 Billion from the expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy which isn't factored into the math due to simple expiration.
So, on revenue, Bowles-Simpson is the worst because it keeps the top rates at 35% and has 1 Trillion in revenue thats moderately progressive. Obama's tax increases are, in dollar terms, right between the two commissions. However, its easily the most progressive because the increases are EXCLUSIVELY on the wealthy. I still probably favor Rivlin-Domenici with revenue because the value gap is a little bigger than regressive-progressive gap. However, its not as stark as only looking at the ratio would tell you.
Now...even if you disagree with my tax analysis, or if you, like many progressives, feel tax revenues on the middle class are still good, thats fine. Because what really, really, really shoots down the notion that Rivlin-Domenici is to the left of Obama's plan is what they do with Medicare. Essentially, they voucherize it like Ryan, but have more generous subsidies. They still dismantle medicare completely and put senior citizens at the mercy of the private insurance industry, which almost on its own makes this plan conservative. In addition to the privatization of Medicare, Rivlin-Domenici has far deeper dollar figure cuts to Medicare/Medicaid than even Bowles-Simpson. It's not much a leap to make that combining deep cuts with privatization will result in the "savings" being accrued by seniors in ways that make the rest of the plan irrelevant. Domenici is to the right of Bowles-Simpson.
Like I said in the intro, the reason I felt the need to post this is cause everyone from The Nation, to Lawrence O'donnell, to even Krugman have basically followed Greenstein(whom I love) into strictly using the Tax:Spending ratio as the sole barometer for measuring the progressive nature of these plans. I think those of us who follow this closely know the basic countours of Obama's plan, but where many fall short is in not knowing all the details of Rivlin-Domenici, or forgetting them as is probably the case with Krugman and Greenstein, but instead focusing of the important, but slightly overrated, structural Tax:Spend ratio.