In a mighty odd column, David Brooks pens a paean to technocratic autocracies like Singapore and suggests that the US needs to "make democracy dynamic again" if it's going to keep up. How will it make democracy dynamic again? Glad you asked:
The quickest way around all this is to use elite Simpson-Bowles-type commissions to push populist reforms.
The process of change would be unapologetically elitist. Gather small groups of the great and the good together to hammer out bipartisan reforms - on immigration, entitlement reform, a social mobility agenda, etc. - and then rally establishment opinion to browbeat the plans through.
Of course, there already was a Simpson-Bowles-type commission that overwhelmingly rallied establishment opinion to its side. It was called the Simpson-Bowles commission. And it failed. So did its descendants like the Senate's Gang of Six and the Supercommittee.
Whatever you think of the Simpson-Bowles plan the outcome proved that these kinds of elite committees aren't able to browbeat their plans through Congress. The outcome of Simpson-Bowles is a big part of the reason some in Washington have begun envying the decisiveness of East Asian autocracies, not a model for how the US can mimic their decisiveness.