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Reaction to Deficit Reduction Plan Runs Hot, Though Obama Urges Open-Mindedness

4 years ago
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For a few, the latest plan for tackling the nation's huge debt problem is a "dose of fiscal sanity." President Obama, among others, took a cautious approach, saying the bipartisan panel should be able finish its work before anyone begins "shooting down" its draft. But many in official Washington couldn't hold back -- they reacted with horror to a package of painful cuts designed to rein in the federal spending that has created a runaway national debt.

Do away with the treasured income tax write-off for mortgages? No way, they said, it's a slap at the middle class. Cut defense spending? Ever heard of the military-industrial complex?

And raise the early retirement age for Social Security to 64 and the full retirement to 68 (by mid-century) and eventually to 69? "This not a package I could support," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a liberal member of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. That's the formal name of the deficit panel appointed by the White House and congressional leaders and tasked with issuing a final report on Dec. 1. Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), another panel member, said parts of the preliminary plan were inspirational, but added that he hated other recommendations "like the devil hates hot water." AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka's went further: "The chairmen of the deficit commission just told working Americans to drop dead."

The best thing that Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire could say about the recommendations -- really just ideas at this point -- was that they represented a "starting point." Yet, the 18-member commission has been at its work for more than eight months and is just weeks from its deadline.

The information that caused such a hubbub Wednesday was put out by the panel's two chairmen, Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, as sort of a trial balloon. "We have harpooned every whale in the ocean, and some minnows," said Simpson, a former senator from Wyoming. In addition to slowing down spending on Social Security and Medicare, the proposals would shrink discretionary spending, simplify the tax code and cut some income tax rates to partially offset loss of the mortgage deduction. They would trim farm subsidies and gradually reduce retirement benefits for government workers and the military. Something for just about everyone. Even NPR would face the axe, losing its federal funding. The idea is to slash $3.8 trillion from projected budget deficits over the next decade in an effort to get a handle on a national debt that now stands at $13.7 trillion, and growing.

The harsh reaction from special interests and their allies was not surprising. It is a Washington way of thinking -- in which one tries to kill a proposal before it gets out of the gate.

Simpson and Bowles need concurrence from at least 14 of their commission colleagues on all or parts of their plan before it goes anywhere. If they somehow get a deal, most of the recommendations would still have to be approved by a skeptical Congress. John Boehner, the presumed speaker of the House come January, withheld comment Wednesday. The current speaker, Nancy Pelosi, called the proposals "simply unacceptable." The liberal lobby and website urged its members to fire up a phone-in campaign urging the White House to reject the plan.

Obama, who was in South Korea when the story broke, didn't do that. "We're going to have to make some tough choices. The only way to make those tough choices historically has been if both parties are willing to move forward together," he said. "So before anybody starts shooting down proposals, I think we need to listen, we need to gather up all the facts. I think we need to be straight with the American people. If people are, in fact, concerned about spending, debt, deficits and the future of our country, then they're going to need to be armed with the information about the kinds of choices that are going to be involved, and we can't just engage in political rhetoric."

Even in the first 24 hours, it was clear the Bowles/Simpson plan faces an uphill battle to even get seriously considered. Yet there were some lonely voices, calling for its serious consideration.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said the plan "does it all," allowing time for the economy to strengthen, bringing down future deficits and debt and protecting the most disadvantaged.

Former Rep. Harold Ford, chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, a haven for moderate Democrats, said the preliminary recommendations "get to the meat of our long-term challenge: lowering our national debt. This is the dose of fiscal sanity we need."

The Concord Coalition, a respected non-partisan watchdog, said the chairmens' plan should serve as a "sobering fiscal reality check." But will it? "Many people have been calling for a serious conversation about these issues," Concord Executive Director Robert Bixby said. "The bipartisan report now beginning to circulate will test whether that desire is real or simply an excuse for inaction."

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Excuse me , do any of the people here EXPECT to be alive in 2050 or 2075. That's when S.S. will change big time. It took, since FDR and LBJ to get in this mess....if we EVER EXPECT TO GET OUT OF THIS AND SAVE THE COUNTRY FROM FINANCIAL COLLAPSE......somebody better start thinking about cutting somewhere.......if it was me deciding, it would be 10% budget cut EVERYWHERE until we had the debt back to a reasonable level or gone. We are in serious trouble ...better start thinking differently.

November 11 2010 at 8:12 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Everyone wants the american people to save the day but we can't! We do not have the money to spend atleast the poor people don't.

November 11 2010 at 7:35 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

One of the big ticket items is defense. Eisenhower warned this country about the military/industrial complex but we didn't listen.

November 11 2010 at 6:27 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tplapper's comment

That's funny! Reagan boosted the defense budget and we won the cold war...and he got this country running in the green and out of the mess carter left for him...IN 2 YEARS!

November 11 2010 at 8:18 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

World War 2 ended in 1945, sixty five years ago and yet we still maintain a military prsence in Germany and Japan that has cost and continues to cost taxpayers billions and billions of dollars We continue to maintain utterly meaningless military outposts in every far flung corner of the world again at a cost of billions. WHY? Is it this all consuming desire for America to be seen as "the greatest power on the planet ? We stick our noses in other countries matters that should be of no concern to us. We needlessly invaded Iraq based upon a pack of lies. We continue to spend billions in Afghanistan when it is obvious that Afghanistan is quite simply, Vietnam all over again and look at the outcome there. Just for once can a political party have the courage to stand up and say "Enough is enough - now we start putting America first" . This would NOT be a sign of weakness but rather, one of tremedous courage and wisdom.

November 11 2010 at 4:34 PM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply

Or we can just wait for everything to go bankrupt and then do something..

November 11 2010 at 4:25 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

When will they get around to reforming the compensation, benefits, and age for drawing full retirement, which is is right now about 10 years sooner than the private sector? The American people will accept sacrifices, as long as they are "shared sacrifices," as stated by the President. No exempting public servants, or a favored few in the private sector. That is what will anger the people, not the sacrifices.

November 11 2010 at 4:07 PM Report abuse +14 rate up rate down Reply

Start with congress. Cut pay, eliminate perks, no retirement plan. They volunteered to be public servants. They can go on the SS plan like everyone else.

November 11 2010 at 12:59 PM Report abuse +25 rate up rate down Reply

Leave the people's Social Security alone. Cut Federal Jobs 10%; cut all Federal salaries and benefits above $150,000. back to 2005 levels. Confiscate all PAC money of retiring politicians to pay down the Federal deficit. Eliminate earmarks; they just grow the government and continue overspending on money borrowed from future generations. Leave the Social Security early retirement age at 62; there are many of our citizens such as roofers, tradesmen, etc. who are physically unable to continue work past 62.

November 11 2010 at 12:48 PM Report abuse +19 rate up rate down Reply

With everything on the table to be cut, this is not the time to experiment with a new entitlement program -- Obamacare... We can cut 2 and a half trillion by just eliminating that one.

November 11 2010 at 12:45 PM Report abuse +11 rate up rate down Reply

First, cut defense spending - why do we need bases in Japan, Germany, etc., when we're closing bases in this country...second, why does John McCain and every Senator and Congressman/woman who is eligible for Social Security, take Social Security payments every month? It is possible to refuse them - do millionaires really need that paltry sum every month - no, but grandma and grandpa do! Third, cut the deduction for mortgage interest - it's not fair to people who rent - they cut out the deduction for credit card interest, for interest on car loans - yet someone who takes an interest only mortgage gets a break on their taxes...give ME a break! And, finally, why do people who make $205,000 a year only pay into Social Security on the first $200,000 - therefore, someone who makes $1,000,000 a year only pays into Social Security on the firs $200,000 they earn - yet they get a check every month when they retire - whatever age that winds up to be! That's ridiculous! I have a high school education - the citizens of this country do not pay for my health insurance, nor do they pay my salary - yet the people who get those benefits, all paid for by citizens of this country, are willing to give tax breaks to the wealthiest (EXXON paid NO federal income tax in 2009 and got money back - what was their profit - how insane is that!). Pretty soon we'll all be living in tents - but they'll still want income tax money from us - and thanks to Bush, they'll be able to find us as long as we have a phone they can tap!

November 11 2010 at 12:31 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

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