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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hunter: Simpson-Bowles Roadmap to National Unity

The deficit reduction plan proposed by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles rouses our man Hunter to comment on duty, shared sacrifice, and bringing Americans together (cue Lee Greenwood):

The all-encompassing approach [of the Simpson-Bowles plan] gives citizens the chance for all of us to contribute to fixing a problem that we caused ourselves. We're not going to create the problem and give it to our children. We're going to take responsibility.

This isn't symbolic patriotism like putting up a flag on the Fourth of July. This is real patriotism, where everyone sacrifices for the good of the country, for our future. We can use this crisis as an opportunity to unify our nation once again [Jon Hunter, "Deficit Panel Recommendations Could Actually Unify Americans," Madison Daily Leader, 2010.11.15].

Hunter may be right about the unifying effects of shared austerity. Calling for every American to pay more taxes and accept fewer services from Uncle Sam could give Americans a sense of common purpose. Involving everyone could make the plan itself work better, like when an overweight family diets together, or when a group of friends all choose to quit smoking together.

Simpson and Bowles propose a national austerity plan that would take 27 years just to balance the annual budget; that's a long -term campaign that could keep our national attention focused on a goal rather than on partisan politics for several election cycles. It challenges the Tea Party re-enacters to prove that they aren't just convulsing against President Barack Obama but really can live up to their rhetoric about our grandkids. If they can, we liberals might be able to find common cause with them, pay more taxes, accept cuts to programs we love, and work toward fiscal sanity.

As Bob the Builder says, Can we do it?
If we can't unite around a plan, perhaps we can at east unite around a game. Neighbor John Nelson points me toward the New York Times' interactive checklist that lets each of us take a swing at reducing the deficit. I take a swing and prove that Simpson and Bowles are pikers: instead of waiting until 2037 to balance the budget, I run a $330-billion surplus by 2015. 50% spending cuts, 50% tax increases... with a $1.1-trillion surplus by 2030, I probably wipe out the federal debt by 2030. (Dang: I didn't even cut space-based missile defense.)

Robert Reich will probably jump in and say I also crash the American economy. Oops. Try your hand, and submit your results below!


  1. Way to go, Cory! Your Heidleberger Plan's only major flaw--you've got me working for even longer! I started paying taxes in 1970, and this will have me putting in rather than basking in my retirement until I'm 68. Can't somebody else sacrifice for me?

    Seriously, I'd love to see some of the hard choices made to get things back on track.

  2. My plan would get $793 billion ahead by the year 2015 and $2498 billion ahead by the year 2030.

    Tighten your belts a couple of notches if they put me on that deficit commission! And forget about that 4,000 square foot second home.

    And remember what Reagan said in 1980 about the U.S. and its relations with the rest of the world: "It's nice to be liked, but it's more important to be respected."

    Note the word "respected," not "feared."

    39% tax increases
    61% spending cuts

  3. Holy cow, Stan! Did you shut down the federal government? I did go hard on military spending cuts, and we can't reduce the deficit without touching the military... but if I were really in Congress or the White House, I'd want to have a serious discussion about just how much force we want to be able to project and how many troops and machines we need to do that. There are still bad guys, and we still need some capacity to whack 'em.

    Larry, that link does help. Perhaps related to the nature of the public discourse Trahant mentions: lower-income folks don't vote as much as higher-income folks.

    (Trahant also uses reign instead of rein, but we all slip on homonyms.)

  4. I'm pretty tough on defense because I believe that we can, and must, have a much leaner, more efficient national defense force to deal with the threats of the twenty-first century.

    Our current war strategies constitute the military analog of performing brain surgery with a hatchet.

    I would form a large private corporation scattered all over the world in secret locations, call it something like the "Grey Hat Squadron," and task it with finding and tracking those specific individuals who wield the most power among those who would kill us ...

    ... and then deliver PSBs (proctological smart bombs) to their appointed destinations. (Let the reader understand.)

    I'm tough on Social Security and Medicare, in the sense that I would increase the cap on the payroll tax, increase the retirement age to 70, and incorporate means testing. As for the medical side, I'm for tort reform and stricter oversight of abuses by hospitals and doctors (charging $20,000 for 24 hours of observations, for example).

    I would also severely restrict mortage interest deductions and revert the estate tax to 2009 levels.

    No "national sales tax" (translation: value-added tax).

    Those are some of the big items. I note that Europe now faces another "crunch." Here is the swine in the sitting room: Americans and Europeans have for too long tried to have their pig and eat it too.

    Just ran the numbers. Was surprised.

    Note the Asians -- they're booming. They seem to be more willing to eat the pig more slowly ... or substitute something less lavish for it. Or both. Maybe we can learn from them before we end up working for them. I work with compositors in India right now, and believe me, they have the ethic -- and they seem to enjoy life too, envying our weather at times, however.


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