"The chairman of President Obama's bipartisan commission on reducing the national debt outlines a politically provocative and economically ambitious package of spending cuts and tax increases on Wednesday, igniting a debate that is likely to grip the country for years." NY Times, November 11, 2010
People, we don't HAVE years.
From what I can discern, the draft recommendations by this panel of six private citizens and 12 members of Congress appear eminently sensible. , In Washington, that can spell doom right off the bat, which may be why the co-chairmen, Alan K. Simpson and Erskine B. Bowles refer to their plan as "a starting point."
It's easy to react negatively because there's a lot of pain to go around. Spending cuts on social programs will not appeal to liberals in or out of Congress. Conservative hawks and rigidly anti-tax advocates will find distasteful proposed reductions in military spending, suggestions for gasoline and health care benefits taxes, or the elimination of certain deductions such as those for home mortgage interest or the child tax credit. No one is going to like the adjustments in Social Security, including proposals for a higher retirement age and for taxes on upper income levels.
But the recommendations, starting point or not, bear close consideration, not an automatic "no way."
Even the suggestion to lower the corporate tax rate, which made me look twice, makes sense given the commission's goals to "broaden the tax base by eliminating loopholes but at the same time lower the overall tax burden for both corporations and individuals." To that end, the commission suggests simplifying the tax code, which does away with a number of popular deductions like those mentioned above but also creates dramatically lower tax brackets for individuals.
A simplified code might also mean we have less need of those accountants who (at least if you believe mine) need to charge more because tax forms are so complicated.
The draft makes sense to me, as I suspect it would to many Americans who took the time to understand it, and to consider what's at stake. Now it's up to Congress--this one or the next--to make something happen. I don't want Democrats and Republicans to agree only that these recommendations must be rejected.That's not bipartisanship; that's dysfunction.
For further information, see:
Wall Street Journal
New York Times
image: Pearson Scott Foresman via Wiki Common