The Balanced Budget Discussion Begins

The President’s bipartisan deficit reduction commission released its draft proposal Wednesday, stuffed with tax increases and spending cuts guaranteed to infuriate everyone.  Co-chairman Alan Simpson joked about entering the Witness Protection Program on his way out of the commission meeting.  Do you remember the children’s game “Operation,” where you pull little plastic bones and organs out of a guy with a red nose that lights up when you make a false move?  Deficit reduction is like that, except the game board is wired with ten thousand volts.

The commission intended its proposal to be a conversation starter.  It’s already been a rousing success.  Republicans on the House Ways & Means committee, including GOP Conference Chair favorite Jeb Hensarling of Texas, expressed their appreciation for “the leadership of Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles on the Fiscal Commission, and their shared commitment to addressing our pressing fiscal challenges.  This is a provocative proposal, and while we have concerns with some of their specifics, we commend the co-chairs for advancing the debate.”

On the other hand, the unflinching enemies of tax-and-spend over at Americans For Tax Reform do not like the oily tax increases leaking from this engine of deficit reduction.  They say the commission’s report “confirms what everyone has known—this commission is merely an excuse to raise net taxes on the American people.”

In the wake of the historic 2010 midterm elections, the discussion about balancing our uncontrolled federal budget has begun… which means things are about to get ugly.

Every dollar of federal spending has a constituency that will furiously resist attempts to take it away.  The statist strategy is to mix all the taxes necessary to support this spending into a thin paste, and spread it across a taxpaying minority that can be outvoted when it gets cranky. 
Nobody gets an itemized bill for their share of ridiculous crap like voice mail for the homeless in Ohio, or a $24 million birthday party for the National Park Service.  The recipients of this pork will fight like wolverines to keep it, and call you greedy and selfish for objecting to the fractions of a penny they siphon from your paycheck… until one day those penny fractions add up to a $3.5 trillion budget with a $13 trillion national debt, in the shadow of $100 trillion in unfunded Social Security and Medicare liabilities that could come crashing down within the next few years.  
Incredibly, liberals still blame this situation on your callous refusal to surrender more of your paycheck, coupled with your refusal to surrender to Islamic terrorism.  Socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont sniffed that the deficit commission’s proposal is “extremely disappointing, and something that should be vigorously opposed by the American people. The huge increase in the national debt in recent years was caused by two unpaid wars, tax breaks for the wealthy, a Medicare prescription drug bill written by the pharmaceutical industry, and the Wall Street bailout.”

To its credit, the deficit commission does gingerly touch the third rail of American politics by discussing Social Security reforms, including an increase in the retirement age… but such reforms are merely an admission that the government system is unsustainable.  We can only solve the problem through privatization, and no Democrat wants to talk about that, or allow anyone else to talk about it.  The commission speaks of raising the retirement age to 69 by 2075.  Newsflash: Social Security, in its present form, will not be around in 2075.  What use have Americans for a government program that eats a huge chunk of their paychecks throughout their long working lives, only to begin paying a pittance during their last seven or eight years?

The commission also recommends a federal pay freeze for three years, beginning in 2011, which will be mildly annoying to all the six-figure employees President Obama added to the federal payroll.  When conservatives speak of cutting government spending, we’re not talking about stalling the rate of increase for a couple of years.

Americans for Tax Reform, which means surgery without anesthesia when it talks of cutting government spending, found billions in new taxes riddling the deficit commission’s proposal… $961 billion over ten years, to be exact.  The government’s share of the Gross Domestic Product would increase from 18 to 21 percent.  Tax deductions for mortgage interest, charitable donations, and employer-provided health insurance would disappear.  This is one of those diets where you eat a lot of fried potatoes and Twinkies, and end up gaining a hundred pounds.

The deficit reduction debate will be painful.  It’s good to see it get under way.  We’re running out of time.