For starters, how about cuts in Social Security benefits and Medicare spending, eliminating the child tax credit and mortgage interest deduction, raising the gasoline tax, and cutting farm subsidies and the defense budget? Wow.
If the bipartisan group had tried to find ways to upset and alienate the largest number of Americans, it could not have been more successful, regardless of the merit of the proposals released by co-chairs Erskine Bowles, former Clinton White House chief of staff, and Republican Alan Simpson, former Wyoming senator. It may be said that they left no sacred cow untouched.
Simpson quipped to reporters, "We'll both be in a witness protection program when this is all over," and Bowles quickly admitted, "This is a starting point."
The president, who was in South Korea, chose not to talk about the proposals, instead declaring, "we're going to have to tell the truth to the American people....We can't just engage in political rhetoric." This apparently new White House policy is welcomed wholeheartedly. Let's hope it applies across the board and not just to deficit issues.
Democrats seemed especially perturbed. Lame duck House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected the proposals out of hand as "simply unacceptable." AFL-CIO union boss Richard Trumka minced no words, declaring, "The chairman of the deficit commission just told working Americans to 'drop dead.'"
The proposals would reduce annual Social Security increases and raise the retirement age from 66 or 67 (for those born in 1960 or after) to 68 far out in 2050 and to 69 in 2075. This is supposed to reduce the deficit starting in 40 years?
Annual increases for Medicare and Medicaid would be limited to no more than 1 percent above the economy's growth rate. Job-based health insurance provided for most Americans would be would be limited or eliminated.
And the commission recommended hiking the federal gasoline tax 15 cents on top of what would be huge tax increases for middle income Americans through the proposed elimination of child tax credits and mortgage interest deduction. Talk about unacceptable.
On the positive side from the taxpayer point-of-view, the commission called for a three-year freeze on the pay of most federal employees and a cut of 10 percent in the federal work force. In addition, all pet congressional projects called earmarks - very important to constituents back home regardless of the rhetoric - would be eliminated.
The proposals call for reducing individual income tax rates, cutting the top rate from 35 percent to 23 percent, and the corporate rate from 35 percent to 26 percent. And in a huge concession to multinational corporations, taxes on their overseas profits would be eliminated.
Obama will "wait until the bipartisan fiscal commission finishes its work before commenting," said White House spokesman Bill Burton, who called the proposals "only a step in the process."
Right. But it's definitely not a giant step toward fixing America's debt problem. email@example.com