How To Cut The Deficit Without Stabbing America In The Back

Bill Scher

Conservative austerity activists have long sought to whip up deficit hysteria and manipulate Washington into gutting Social Security and Medicare and stifling public investments.

But Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a progressive member of the White House deficit commission, has just released a deficit reduction plan that proves we can achieve fiscal stability without destroying our long-term retirement security or stopping us from creating more jobs now.

The Washington Post summed it up: ” Keep Social Security benefits intact, make deep reductions at the Pentagon and raise corporate taxes to target profits and excessive pay for chief executives.”

Her cuts in military spending are not much more than what the deficit commission co-chairs proposed. The bigger differences are her immediate investments to create more jobs now, aggressive support of fair taxation, inclusion of a public health insurance option and carbon cap making polluters pay for greenhouse gas emissions.

Obviously, most progressives will embrace her approach. But what will so-called “serious” fiscal conservatives say about it?

One self-described moderate, The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson, gave it a respectful hearing, only slightly favoring the Simpson-Bowles plan. He likes the Schakowsky plan more on health care and additional stimulus, but likes Simpson-Bowles more because it goes after middle-class tax breaks and Social Security.

Thompson’s bottom-line: “Is this a plan to reduce the deficit? Absolutely. But it is mostly a plan to increase taxes on businesses, rich people — and especially rich businesspeople … the concentration of higher taxes on business, investment and upper-middleclass workers is troublesome, especially as the bottom half of the country is asked to give up practically nothing on top of enjoying its lowest effective tax rates in recent history.”

I don’t agree with Thompson, but I am more than happy to have his sincere assessment be the counterweight to an honest debate.

The fact is, as Thompson acknowledges: there are multiple ways to cut the deficit. Different programs to cut. Different taxes to raise. Different timelines to follow.

Let’s debate which path is best for our overall economy: having the wealthy pay more or spreading the pain wider among the middle class.

But you absolutely cannot say there is no progressive path to deficit reduction. Because one is on the table.

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