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Debt Commision Co-Chairs Report a Good and Necessary Beginning

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The release of a 50 page list of recommendations to cut and resolve the nation’s $13,734,742,311,540.10  debt (today’s tally according to the deficit clock tomorrow you can add another $4.15 billion or so) is generating tons of outcry and outrage on both sides of the political aisle. (Including from deposed Speaker Nancy Pelosi who is as shrill and as empty of ideas, as ever).

Cut through the media reported hysteria and the reality is the proposal is merely a strategic shout-out by the Debt and Deficit Commissions’ bipartisan co-chairs, Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson. It is NOT the final report, though it has a lot of smart ideas.

Despite the gutsy move by the two men, one a Dem, the other a retired GOP Senator (they’ve joked they may need to go into a witness protection program), this is just the opening salvo (or grenade launch) and an obvious attempt to force, prod and bludgeon the Commission’s other 16 members into agreeing on some tough measures and getting some of the more controversial ideas out to the public in advance to reduce the shock factor when the final report is issued.

The 18 member Commission still has three weeks before making a final recommendation to President Obama. He created the commission nine months ago when the effort to create a similar group died in the Senate. You remember that branch of government–the one that is supposed to legislate and approve things like budgets and be, well responsible, to the people of this country, the ones they were elected to serve.

Well, when the Senate didn’t get the job done, the President stepped in and created the Commission.

Erskine Bowles, commission co-chair, did not exaggerate when he compared the existing and ever-growing deficit to cancer that could kill this country in the future. Chemo is never pleasant, but this time it is a necessary evil that must be endured. Not for my sake or the sake of baby boomers, but for those grandbabies of today and the future.

The recommendations are tough but not Draconian. It takes years for some of the recommendations by the co-chairs to take effect. Looking past the knee jerk reactions of both sides of the political aisle and others singing in harmony in the Greek Chorus of the gutless, pushing back the retirement age to 68 by 2050 and 69 by 2075 is really not so horrifying. Eliminating Social Security cost of living increases and reducing the amount to wealthier taxpayers over time, again, is workable.

Other proposals include redoing the tax code (they’ve got three different ideas there) and anything that would eliminate all the loopholes so everyone pays his/her/their fair share is smart. I’ve favored a flat tax for years (CPAs don’t like it and neither do large businesses that hire CPAs to identify every possible loophole);

Gradually increasing the gas tax by 15 cents per gallon in 2013 is modest–we still have about the lowest gasoline prices in the world. Freezing federal wages for three years (except active military) is much like many state and local public employees have faced with   furloughs, pay cuts and lay offs during the past several years. Federal workers, with among the most generous retirement deals in the country, shouldn’t be immune from the pain the rest of us have been feeling.

Other ideas include reducing the budgets of Congress and the White House by 15% means everyone pays their share of the cost cutting. Ditto for cutting the federal workforce by 10% (state and local governments have already done this).

One of the best proposals and most likely the one least likely to win Congressional approval is the one to eliminate all earmarks. Putting Congress on a pork-free diet is long overdue.

Despite the howls of protest and the pronouncements the plan is already dead on arrival, it is garnering support from folks in sensible places like the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Just like the obesity rate in this country, the U.S. has been on a binge of spending and consuming for decades.

The Great Recession (it is really a Depression, folks, don’t let the spin doctors fool you), has cause high employment, record high foreclosures and bankruptcies, and in some ways has fundamentally changed the country.

Change has to come from the top, for frankly, the debt is going to bankrupt all of us unless something is done and soon.

ABC’s Jake Tapper in his blog has done a good job detailing the co-chairs’ proposal if you don’t have the time to read it all.

Remember the final report needs support from at least 14 of the Commission’s members to get it to the floor of the Senate should be in the news in three weeks.

North Dakota’s Democratic Senator Ken Conrad (a Commission member) says the debt is costing us 40 cents of every dollar.

That’s a huge outlay. Just as the U.S. basically helped to bankrupt the Soviet Union with our “Star Wars” plans, we are managing to do this to ourselves, all by ourselves. Talk about suicide.



Written by jrnjbb

November 11, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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