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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Deficit reduction - crazy?

The Wall Street Journal ("White House, Business Group Duel on Jobs," 7/14/10) and Tax Notes ("Fiscal Commission Cochair Wants Lower Rates, Consumption Tax," 7/19/10) report that Erskine Bowles, cochair of President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform observed on the task of getting 80% of the commissioners to agree on a plan by December 1 - "Anybody who thinks we have a big chance to get this done is crazy."

Well, that doesn't sound very optimistic! There are plenty of proposals out there and it is possible to reduce the deficit. The problem is really that we might not like the answer because we are used to a growing number of tax cuts and growing amount of government services. As I've noted before on posts - we need "tough love." We need a plan to help get us away from the free lunch that someone else pays for because we are low on "someone elses" and lunch is getting bigger and bigger.

The Tax Notes article also states that Mr. Bowles suggested in a July 14 speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that a solution would be to simplify the tax law, lower tax rates and create a broad-based consumption tax. Certainly, a consumption tax can bring in additional revenue, but as a new tax, adds costs and complexities. Why not increase an existing excise tax, such as the gasoline excise tax so that the Highway Trust Fund doesn't need to get funds from the General Fund? Or why not balance out the mix of income tax base broadening and rate reduction to still bring in enough to address the deficit (along with spending fixes)?

Will Bowles' consumption tax proposal include relief for low income taxpayers so we aren't shifting taxes from high income to low income taxpayers?

Is this all crazy? What do you think?

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