Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

“I have great respect for each of you individually, but collectively I’m worried that you’re going to fail – fail the country,” former Bill Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles said last week to the 12-member joint congressional supercommittee tasked with cutting the federal deficit by some $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

The safe money in Washington is betting on failure. On Monday, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., predicted that the supercommittee will fail, and he blamed Republicans for a failure that has yet to occur. Apparently Schumer represents the branch of the Democratic Party that cares more about blaming the GOP than doing something about the deficit.

There are Democrats – and Republicans – who understand the high stakes involved. Last week, Reps. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, joined 98 other House members in a letter that urged the supercommittee to go big – to shave $4 trillion off the deficit. The letter noted that “all options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenues must be on the table” – which Washington took as a green light for tax increases.

Now I don’t understand why House members would push for a $4 trillion package when insiders think the $1.2 trillion plan won’t fly – other than to grandstand. But I have to agree that, at the end of the day, serious deficit reduction will have to include both spending cuts and revenue increases – although better to put off serious revenue increases until the economic recovery is solid.

Note: Revenue increases aren’t necessarily tax increases. Congress could raise revenue by eliminating tax breaks. As Simpson told Fox News, “Nobody is in favor of increasing tax rates. But we are in favor of increasing revenue.”

At a GOP debate last summer, all the GOP presidential candidates raised their hands when asked if they would reject a deficit-reduction package comprised of $1 in tax increases for every $10 in spending cuts. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, was one of them.

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