As you can see in our new feature post, a group of conservative and not-so-conservative Democrats in the senate pushing to use the upcoming need to up the national debt ceiling to insist that a commission be formed — perhaps on the model of the old base closing commission — to rein in spending and get the national finances under control. Anyone who looks at the national budget knows that if you start with the assumption that deficits are a critical problem right now that there are two big levers to get them under control — cutting social insurance programs like Social Security, Medicare and so on or raising taxes. You can make a dent on discretionary spending. But there’s just not enough money there. And it’s awfully hard to see how you make significant cuts in defense while you’re expanding one of two wars the country is fighting.
The key to focus on in my mind is that this is not just coming from Congress. I suspect you’ll find a White House, if not eager to go along with the idea of a commission, ready to pivot fairly dramatically from a 2009 focused on economic stabilization and reform into a 2010 focused heavily on budgetary retrenchment.
So this is a big thing to keep an eye on to understand the trajectory of the next eleven months both in policy terms and in terms of the 2010 election.