Social Security cuts are part of deficit plan
WASHINGTON: The members of President Barack Obama's deficit commission will begin to go on the record Wednesday as they debate politically explosive budget cuts, including proposals to lower Social Security benefits, in a revised plan to wrestle the national debt under control.
The new plan by panel cochairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, to be unveiled Wednesday, faces an uphill slog because of proposals to raise the Social Security retirement age and lower cost-of-living increases, cut Medicare costs, curtail a huge assortment of tax breaks, like the deduction for mortgage interest, and almost double the federal tax on a gallon of gasoline.
Though the plan appears unlikely to win enough bipartisan support from the panel to be approved for a vote in Congress this year or next, Bowles has already declared victory, saying he and Simpson have at least succeeded in initiating an "adult conversation" in the country about the pain it will take to cut the deficit.
The plan faces resistance from many commission members. House Republicans appear uniformly against tax increases, while liberal Democrats like Jan Schakowsky of Illinois appear unlikely to be able to accept big cuts in federal programs for seniors. Obama named the commission in hopes of bringing a deficit-fighting plan up for a vote in Congress this year, but it appears to be falling well short of the 14-vote bipartisan supermajority needed.
A new version of the plan, obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday, makes mostly minor changes to a draft that whipped up enormous controversy when unveiled earlier this month. Some domestic spending cuts are modestly higher than previously proposed, and health care savings from overhauling the medical malpractice system would reap less than proposed earlier this month.
Unlike their original proposal, Bowles and Simpson stop short of calling for caps on medical malpractice awards. Instead they recommend changes in how awards are made. -Reuters