2. A presidential commission’s leaders proposed a $3.8 trillion deficit-cutting plan that would cut Social Security and Medicare, reduce income-tax rates and eliminate tax breaks including the mortgage-interest deduction.
The co-chairmen of the panel appointed by President Barack Obama suggested reducing Social Security spending by raising the retirement age to 68 in about 2050 and 69 in about 2075. The plan also would slow the rate at which benefits grow. The savings would come between 2012 and 2020.
Income-tax rates would be reduced to three levels: 8 percent, 14 percent and 23 percent.
Wiping out all tax breaks, including the home mortgage deduction, while lowering rates would save $100 billion a year, Bowles said. Members of the panel could decide to keep some tax breaks by offering offsetting cuts, he said.
Bowles said about three-fourths of the savings would come from spending cuts with the remainder from tax increases.
Discretionary spending cuts in the plan include reducing congressional and White House budgets by 15 percent, freezing federal salaries and cutting the federal workforce by 10 percent. The discretionary reductions of $1.4 trillion would be split equally between defense and domestic programs, Bowles said.
“The cuts really will happen on both sides of that firewall,” he said.
The plan would cut the deficit to 2.2 percent of gross domestic product by 2015, from the current 9 percent, exceeding Obama’s goal. It would also reduce debt to 60 percent of GDP by 2024.
This plan is considered a starting point for deficit reduction. The full panel, which includes presidential appointees and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, is expected to release its official findings by Dec. 1. But it’s just that–a panel. Whatever the commission reports to Congress, it will be up to lawmakers to take action. And that may be later rather than sooner, given the political gridlock that’s expected to characterize the next two years.
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