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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

 
Kerrey, Kerrey quite contrary

by digby

This should be helpful:


Bob Kerrey, the Democrat and former governor of Nebraska who is running this fall to win back the U.S. Senate seat he held from 1989 until 2001, said Tuesday he was lured back into public life by something many in Washington find increasingly elusive: the potential to solve lingering national problems the old fashioned way, with strong bipartisan cooperation.

"The thing that pulls me back into the public space, into a campaign that will be exceptionally difficult to win, is the fact that we postponed a number of very significant problems that will only get worse with the remedies on the table," he told The National Memo.

His initial campaign announcement on February 29 came one day after Maine Republican Olympia Snowe retired because she said she couldn't deal with the partisan gridlock caused by a Republican Party that has raised filibustering in the upper chamber to a high art form. And to be sure, Kerrey is well aware that the disastrous war in Iraq and economic collapse have sharpened ideological divides since he left Washington to become president of the New School in New York. But the former businessman and Vietnam Medal of Honor winner believes that the fights of the Obama years don't have to break along party lines, and is fond of conjuring up images of a time when now-legendary bipartisan Senate relationships like that between Democrat George Mitchell and Republican Bob Dole forged national policy.
Let's take a little trip down memory lane shall we?

Just in case anyone's forgotten or are too young to remember --the former Democratic senator from Oklahoma and current Unity 08 poobah, David Boren, is an egomaniac who stabbed Bill Clinton in the back repeatedly when he was trying to pass his economic plan in 1993. (As did Bob Kerrey and Sam Nunn, among others.) After months of kissing Boren's ass and treating him like the perfumed prince he believes he is, Boren went on "Face The Nation" and announced that he just couldn't support his president.

He had already insisted on getting rid of the proposed BTU tax and wanted a "compromise" that would have dropped all the new taxes on the wealthy and make up the money by capping Medicare and Medicaid and getting rid of Clinton's planned EITC for the poor. He, like Bob Kerrey and many others, were obsessed with "fixing" social security and other "entitlements" in order to cure the deficit.

But there was one thing he believed in more than anything else:

From The Agenda:

Gore asked, what did Boren want changed in the plan in order to secure his vote?

Like a little list? Boren asked.

Yeah, Gore said.

Boren said he didn't have little list. Raising the gas tax a nickel or cutting it a nickel or anything like that wouldn't do it, he said. He had given his list to Moynihan like everybody else in the Finance Committee. It was over and done with, and Boren likened himself to a free agent in baseball. "I have the luxury of standing back here and looking at this," Boren said. His test would be simple: Would it work? If not, it didn't serve the national interest.

Gore said he was optimistic for the first time.

Boren shot back. "There's nothing you can do for me or to me that will influence my decision on this matter." he added. "I'm going to make it on the basis of what I think is right or wrong."

Nobody responded for a moment. Clinton then stepped in. Why didn't Boren think it was in the national interest? he asked.

It wasn't bipartisan,
Boren answered. To be successful in this country it had been demonstrated over and over, an effort had to be bipartisan, Clinton had even said so himself, Boren pointed out. Even most optimists, Boren said, thought they were still not even halfway there.



No Republican voted for the plan. Clinton knew that he would never get any Republicans to vote for a plan to raise taxes on the wealthy after the handful who had done so in 1990 were burned at the stake by the conservative movement. But sure, they would have voted for a "compromise" that raised no taxes, dropped all investment in infrastructure, any help for the poor and capped spending on the sick to cure the deficit. That's bipartisanship, village-style.

Bob Kerrey eventually agreed to vote for the plan making it a 50-50 tie --- which Al Gore broke, passing the plan. (It passed by one vote in the House, as well.)

Right after the vote Kerrey went on the Senate floor said:

"My heart aches with the conclusion that I will vote yes for a bill which challenges Americans too little.

"President Clinton, if you're watching now, as I suspect you are, I tell you this: I could not and should not cast a vote that brings down the presidency...

"Get back on the high road, Mr President,"Kerrey proclaimed. Taxing the wealthy was simply "political revenge," he said. "Our fiscal problems exist because of rapid, uncontrolled growth in the programs that primarily benefit the middle class." Clinton needed to return to the theme of shared sacrifice, he said, and should have said no to the deals and compromises.

And then he went back on his word to Clinton that he wouldn't demand a bipartisan commission to study how to cut all those middle class "entitlements."
Which he got:
On November 5th 1993 President Bill Clinton—by Executive Order #12878—created the Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement Reform. The Commission—which began work in February 1994—was co-chaired by Senators Robert Kerrey (D-NB) and John Danforth (R-MO). The Commission was comprised of ten U.S. Senators, ten members of Congress, and twelve members of the public, along with a professional staff of 27.

In their approach, the Commission went well beyond the topics of Social Security and Medicare and lumped together everything that might be considered an “entitlement”—from welfare programs to the home mortgage interest tax deduction to the cost of federal civilian and military retirement. Its goal was to devise a package of proposals which would reduce the overall cost of all of these programs.

The Commission made little progress on its task, and was only able to release an “Interim Report” in August 1994, a report which merely defined the size of the problem, without containing any suggested policies to address it. Even without any policy recommendations, unanimous agreement could not be reached as only 30 of the 32 members signed off on the Interim Report.

One of the Commission’s more noticeable products was a computer game which allowed members of the public to try and balance the federal budget through various policy options.

The two co-chairs of the Commission developed their own Social Security proposal, which featured raising the retirement age to 70, a cut in the Social Security payroll tax, with the money redirected into mandatory private accounts, and adopting price-indexing (among other changes). This was perhaps the first advocacy of “carve-out” private accounts, and of price indexing, by a prominent mainstream group.
And Kerrey was prescient:

August 28, 1996

CHICAGO - Sen. Bob Kerrey smells an odor coming from the Republican and Democratic stands on entitlements.

"It's one of the cruelest things we do, when we say, Republicans or Democrats, `Oh, we can wait and reform Social Security later,' " the Nebraska Democrat said.

Mr. Kerrey says that without reform, entitlements will claim 100 percent of the Treasury in 2012.

"This is not caused by liberals, not caused by conservatives, but by a simple demographic fact," Mr. Kerrey warned at a meeting of the Democratic Leadership Council.

"We [will have] converted the federal government into an ATM machine."

There's an impressive track record.

I'm sure he'll be begging to be involved in Grand Bargain Redux. He practically invented it.

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