<html> <head><style type ="text/css">body { font-family: "Bloomberg Prop Unicode I", Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:125%; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; color: #FF9F0F; background-color: #000000; text-align: left; } p {line-height: 1.25em; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" );} h1, h2, h3 { text-align: left; font-weight: normal; color: #FFFFFF; } h1 { font-size: 130%; } h2 { font-size: 115%; } h3 { font-size: 100%; } #bb-style { font-size: 90%; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" ); } b, strong { font-weight: bold; } i, em { color: #FEC54A; } pre { font-family: "Andale Mono", "Monaco", "Lucida Console"; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; line-height: 1.25em; } table { border: 0; font-size: 90%; width: 100%; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; } td, tr { text-align: left; } td.numeric { text-align: right; } a:link { color:#53B2F5; text-decoration: none; } a:visited {color:#53B2F5} a:active {color:#53B2F5} a:hover {color:#53B2F5} </style> </head> <body> <p>By Caroline Baum</p> <p>President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner appear to be tiptoeing their way toward some form of an agreement to avert an automatic $600 billion of tax increases and spending cuts at year-end. It will not be the grand bargain envisioned by many of the non-profit groups devoted to <a href="http://www.fixthedebt.org/">fixing the debt</a>. At best it will be a small compromise that raises taxes, provides some additional "stimulus" (spending by another name) and promises to fix the long-run entitlement problem next year.</p> <p>Politicians claim that there isn't enough time to put together a major tax or entitlement reform in the 11 days that remain. And they're right. But that's because they ignored it when then had the opportunity.</p> <p>The president's <a href="http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/">National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform</a>, a.k.a. Simpson-Bowles, issued its final report on Dec. 1, 2010. Co-chairmen Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles released a separate report a month earlier. Obama said thanks, but no thanks, to the <a href="http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/sites/fiscalcommission.gov/files/documents/TheMomentofTruth12_1_2010.pdf">proposal</a> to address the country's looming debt problem, simplify the tax code and promote economic growth. He filed it in his bottom drawer until the negotiations over the debt-ceiling began in July 2011, at which point Simpson-Bowles was the solution to everything that ails us.</p> <p>There was still plenty of time to produce a major fiscal reform when the supercommittee entrusted with finding $1.2 trillion of spending cuts folded on Nov. 21, 2011. The Budget Reconciliation Act created the commission and charged it with finding savings in order to avert a year-end sequester. Once again, nothing was done.</p> <p>So the next time you hear a politician say there isn't enough time to reform entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, ask him what he's been doing for the last two years.</p> <p>(Caroline Baum is a Bloomberg View columnist. <a href="https://twitter.com/cabaum1">Follow</a> her on Twitter.)</p> <p>Read more breaking commentary from Bloomberg View at <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/view/the-ticker/">the Ticker</a>.</p> </body> </html>