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Old 07-13-2010, 03:40 PM  
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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All eyes on the deficit commission.

I'm trying to remember what the deficit commission under the previous administration recommended.

Anybody remember?

http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/07/1...ion/index.html

Tough calls ahead for deficit commission
By David Gergen, CNN Senior Political Analyst
July 13, 2010 9:53 a.m. EDT

Just when we are exhausted from hard times, we have to brace ourselves for more of them around the corner.

That was the grim message this weekend from the co-captains of President Obama's deficit commission, speaking before the nation's governors in Boston, Massachusetts, and from other leaders I have met recently.

Our economic crisis may have been unpredictable, commission co-chairman Erskine Bowles told the governors, but unless we fix the nation's finances, we will experience another one that is "the most predictable in history." He expects it to strike no later than a decade from now and probably sooner.

How did we get here, asked former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, the other co-chairman. For the past 60 years, politicians in Congress have been trained to bring home the bacon. "Now the pig is dead," he said. "There is no more bacon to bring home."

Clearly, we have some very tough choices ahead. The 18-member deficit commission -- two-thirds of it appointed by Congress, one-third by the president -- is working hard to come up with recommendations by early December. (No one in Washington wants them before the November elections.) It's too early to know where the commission will come out or how much influence it will have -- the co-chairmen themselves say chances of success are small -- but it is already clear that the commission will present the country with gut-wrenching decisions.

Listening, and reading between the lines, here's my early take on where the commission is heading:

How do we rein in entitlements? Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are exploding. Already, Bowles said, their costs equal all the tax revenues coming into Washington. The commission knows that Medicare is the biggest, toughest nut to crack, and it will almost certainly recommend reopening and revising the health care bill passed last year in order to bring down costs. Obama says further Medicare reform has to be on the table: But will Democrats like Nancy Pelosi agree? Will seniors? Will doctors and hospitals? Expect a firestorm.

If there is good news on entitlements, it is a growing belief in and around the commission that a bipartisan compromise can be forged on Social Security. It would probably involve another extension of retirement age -- the European Union is now recommending 70 -- an increase in Social Security taxes for the affluent, and a modest reduction in benefits. But no one should underestimate how much of a fight retirees and near-retirees could put up.

Reining in the rest of government. The costs of the rest of government have been mushrooming, too -- a recession, two wars and reckless spending will do that. But where do we cut? Bowles and Simpson would like to protect the poor, protect investments in education and infrastructure and protect national security. Still, reductions need to be found. Here are two key options the commission is exploring:

Cutting defense, starting with weapons programs that were designed for the Cold War, and possibly freezing pay for military personnel to match pay freezes among domestic civil servants. I have heard no talk about accelerating pullbacks from Afghanistan and Iraq, but one of the perils faced in the past by great nations in financial distress is to precipitously draw down their military and become weakened. How much can we prudently cut defense? Expect another big fight.

Cutting tax breaks for the broad middle class: Millions of us benefit today from a home mortgage deduction, a deduction for employers who pay part of our health insurance, deductions for charitable contributions and the like. These are officially called "tax expenditures" and together they are huge -- their total cost to the government, say commission leaders, about equals all tax revenues. Clearly, these "tax expenditures" are on the chopping block within the commission. But they are very popular and proponents say they are pillars of the country's well-being. Will they be changed? Can we afford not to change them? Another tough call.

Raising taxes: Most Republicans don't want to raise taxes at all; Democrats, including those in the White House, favor a value added tax (VAT) that is pervasive in Western Europe. Middle-class Americans think the affluent ought to pay a far higher share; the affluent are divided on how high their taxes should go and think that lower-middle-class Americans should have greater skin in the game. This struggle is sure to become more intense next year.

For now, the commission seems to be exploring a middle course. Bowles cites the decisions by the new British government under David Cameron in its recent austerity program. The Brits essentially cut out $3 in spending for every $1 increase in taxes. Bowles personally would be comfortable with a 2-1 ratio of spending cuts vs. tax increases. He is known to have an aversion to a VAT tax unless it is accompanied by serious reductions in income and corporate tax rates.

As President Clinton's chief of staff in 1997, Bowles negotiated with Republicans in charge on Capitol Hill to reach the first balanced budget in decades. That budget called for spending and revenues to both stand at roughly 21 percent of GDP.

To make the commission's recommendation palatable to all sides, Bowles, Simpson and some of their allies are thinking that a balanced budget might once again be pegged at that 21 percent mark, which would be down from roughly 25.4 percent on the spending side and up from 19.4 percent on the tax side. They would also seek a legislative cap, so that neither taxes nor spending could exceed that level of GDP unless a supermajority in Congress voted to break the cap.

Finally, commission members are anxious to make clear that they are not recommending serious deficit reductions in the midst of hard times. They do not argue for or against more job spending or more assistance to states this year. Rather, they are saying the first of their recommendations would not take place until at least 2012, when the economy should be in better shape. But they warn that we cannot postpone major deficit reductions any longer -- the danger to the country is too great.

As someone who has worked with and greatly admired Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson over the years, I believe they deserve the enormous gratitude of the country for accepting their roles as co-chairmen of this deficit commission. They know they will become targets from aggrieved citizens, many of whom are suffering today. They know, too, that it will be extraordinarily difficult to forge a bipartisan consensus behind a plan that will require shared sacrifice.

But they also think the country is in peril -- and they are showing courage and good sense in the way they are trying to find answers. It would be reassuring if the rest of our political leaders had the guts to stand up with them.
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Old 07-13-2010, 03:41 PM   #2
petegz28 petegz28 is offline
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I'm trying to remember why Obama said he wasn't going to have commissions for everything??
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Old 07-13-2010, 04:02 PM   #3
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by petegz28 View Post
I'm trying to remember why Obama said he wasn't going to have commissions for everything??
Me too. Commissions are politically great.

They are seen as legitimate, politically neutral, and they serve as the perfect trial balloons as the public decides which findings they like and which they don't. And if the commission's results are unpopular, throw them under the bus and move on.
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Old 07-13-2010, 04:08 PM   #4
petegz28 petegz28 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
Me too. Commissions are politically great.

They are seen as legitimate, politically neutral, and they serve as the perfect trial balloons as the public decides which findings they like and which they don't. And if the commission's results are unpopular, throw them under the bus and move on.
, yea, right.

At least you admit this is yet another thing Obama pulled a 180 on.

And FTR, most of their ideas are stupid.
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Old 07-13-2010, 04:24 PM   #5
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by petegz28 View Post
At least you admit this is yet another thing Obama pulled a 180 on.
Name me a President that hasn't pulled a hundred 180s in their administrations.

It's a good thing, sometimes.
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Old 07-13-2010, 04:35 PM   #6
petegz28 petegz28 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
Name me a President that hasn't pulled a hundred 180s in their administrations.

It's a good thing, sometimes.
So you are coming to realize that Barry is just another politican and not the Hope and Change you bought into? Good for you!
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Old 07-13-2010, 04:40 PM   #7
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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Originally Posted by petegz28 View Post
So you are coming to realize that Barry is just another politican and not the Hope and Change you bought into? Good for you!
I pretty much always thought that.

The hope and change and stuff was all you guys.
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Old 07-13-2010, 04:44 PM   #8
petegz28 petegz28 is offline
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Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
I pretty much always thought that.

The hope and change and stuff was all you guys.
Dude, I should warn you that you go to hell for lying like that.
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Old 07-13-2010, 04:55 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by petegz28 View Post
Dude, I should warn you that you go to hell for lying like that.
k
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Old 07-13-2010, 05:24 PM   #10
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Amazing. The best way to reduce the deficit is to cut excessive spending. How these breakthroughs happen is amazing. It would help if business wasn't under the thumb of big government. How do you reduce big government by making government bigger?

First disband commissions. Fire the czars. Impose a hiring freeze on all government agencies. Direct every budgeted department to submit a plan to cut spending across the board by 15%. Any department leader who says they cant get to 15% is fired and replaced with someone who will roll with program

Here is an idea. Elect people who have the balls to cut federal spending top to bottom. Get rid of politicians who see every day as a day to add more spending and build programs that don't work. Then work with business, not against business to kickstart the economy back to the growth days when unemployment was so low we worried if we had enough workers.

I think we can do it.
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