Home Budget, Economy Is Mark Warner’s Unflappable Deficit Focus Ironically Pound-Foolish?

Is Mark Warner’s Unflappable Deficit Focus Ironically Pound-Foolish?

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Mark WarnerCongress has been unable to pass a deficit reduction plan because Republicans steadfastly refuse to raise taxes on the wealthy. Democrats have put discretionary spending, the social safety net, and even the short-term health of the economy on the table, but the GOP will accept no deals. That’s why the Gang of Six broke down in May. That’s why talks between President Obama & John Boehner went nowhere in July. That’s why the Deficit SuperCommittee defaulted to automatic cuts to discretionary & defense spending in November. Yes, Republicans would rather risk re-election on charges of being weak on national security than raise taxes on the ultra-wealthy. So why would they rather do so something so thankless as cut the long-term deficit than raise taxes on the ultra-wealthy?

Yet long after Washington has moved on to extending the payroll tax cut & discussing the best ways to create jobs, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) is continuing his deficit crusade:

Virginia U.S. Sen. Mark Warner won’t relax until significant federal debt reduction is accomplished. “This is whether Congress is up to governing and knocking $4 trillion off the debt. It’s not curing cancer and it’s not defeating Communism. But until we get this dealt with, we can’t do anything else,” Warner said.

Congress IS doing other things. It’s working on extending payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance. President Obama has begged Congress to pass his American Jobs Act to raise taxes on the wealthy to put people back to work.

But instead of cutting his losses, Warner is still investing his time in the failed Gang of Six:

Warner has co-led with Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., a group known as as the “Gang of Six,” three Republican and three Democratic senators. The group has worked for a year on a way to accomplish the $4 trillion debt reduction suggested by the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

The “Gang of Six” has a blueprint that involves spending cuts, raising revenue and reforming entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The “Gang of Six” proposal has the support of perhaps 45 senators and 100 to 105 members of the U.S. House. […]

In Washington, besides the “Gang of Six,” Warner is now co-hosting monthly bipartisan dinners for groups of 20 senators with veteran Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander.

After nearly a year of laser-like focus on the deficit, Warner has managed to win over … about 2 in 5 of his Senate colleagues and barely 1 in 5 House members. It’s fair to ask whether continuing to pursue this is the best use of Warner’s time.

And given that the federal government can borrow money at negative inflation-adjusted rates, is the deficit focus even justified? This isn’t like running up a credit card bill at high interest rates – it’s like going to buy a car and being offered zero percent financing for 10 years.

Look, President Obama spent a year trying to play nice with Republicans. It didn’t work, so now President Obama is pivoting to run for re-election against a do-nothing Congress. If Sen. Warner has a similar plan, great.

If not, what IS Mark Warner’s plan? Spend another year having dinner with his Gang of Six friends with nothing to show for it?