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Obama Breathes New Life Into Conrad-Gregg Commission

What a difference a special election makes.

12:26 PM, Jan 25, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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Over the weekend, President Obama reversed his position on a congressional proposal to create a bipartisan commission examining taxes and spending.

Obama Breathes New Life Into Conrad-Gregg Commission

I first wrote about the proposal, authored by Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Republican Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, in a recent issue of the magazine. At the time, however, its prospects looked grim thanks to the president's opposition. The president was set to announce his support for a different commission, one with more Democrats and less of a chance to pass meaningful reforms. Then Scott Brown came along.

The Conrad-Gregg commission would look at all spending and revenue, including entitlements and taxes. It still faces considerable opposition from Republicans who oppose additional taxes and Democrats who don't want to means-test entitlements or cut discretionary spending. And since the president is in a weakened state, his endorsement may not mean much. But this is definitely something to watch.

The Economist has a great briefing this week on the rapidly expanding public sector and what to do about it. The takeaway is that we are not powerless to restrain the "pragmatic leviathan." The retirement age can be raised. Entitlements can be means-tested. Public employee salaries and pensions can be reduced. The federal workforce can be slimmed down through attrition. Corporate and agricultural subsidies can be eliminated. Above all, huge new spending programs can be opposed. Even if a commission doesn't come into being, why can't Congress and the White House consider these ideas? After all, this is supposed to be a "new era of responsibility." 

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