Social Security Benefit Cuts, Tax Overhaul Mulled by Bipartisan Panel

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In defending the proposals, Bowles said: "As an example, in 2015 we have $163 billion worth of discretionary budget cuts. We give you $200 billion to select from. So again we've tried to be specific. We've dealt with discretionary spending, defense and non-defense. We've dealt with health care. We've dealt with Social Security and we've put forward a proposal that reforms the tax code. We get rid of most of the tax expenditures. We broaden the base. We lower the rates. We take rates down to 8, 14 and 23. We take the corporate rate down to 26 which makes America the best place to start and own a business. We're excited that this is a good base. I want to stress this is not the president's proposal. We don't purport to represent the president. This isn't the commission's proposal. This is simply Sen. Simpson's and my first attempt to put a real plan on the table to bring this deficit down by $4 trillion."

Bowles today touted the panel's new plan as "strong", "balanced", and "a good first start", warning that the nation is headed for "disaster" if the soaring amount of red ink is not brought under control.

"We've laid a predicate down here that will I hope be enormously useful in addressing what I think is the most predictable economic crisis in history. Every single member of Congress knows that the path that we're on today is not sustainable and if we don't bring these deficits down and eventually get the balance, you know, we are headed for disaster," Bowles said.

Reaction Ranged From "Drop Dead" to No Comment

The proposal drew a "no comment" from the White House.

"The President will wait until the bipartisan fiscal commission finishes its work before commenting. He respects the challenging task that the co-chairs and the commissioners are undertaking and wants to give them space to work on it. These ideas, however, are only a step in the process towards coming up with a set of recommendations and the president looks forward to reviewing their final product early next month," said White House spokesperson, Bill Burton.

The proposals immediately came under fire from liberal groups.

"The chairmen of the deficit commission just told working Americans to 'drop dead,'" said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a statement. "Especially in these tough economic times, it is unconscionable to be proposing cuts to the critical economic lifelines for working people, Social Security and Medicare."

"The very people who want to slash Social Security and Medicare spent this week clamoring for more unpaid Bush tax cuts for millionaires," he said.

And there was an early indication of how difficult it will be for 14 of the panel's 18 members to all get behind a plan. A few of them wasted no time today in voicing their opposition to the proposal.

"I have some concerns about it and I cannot support it – that is, this version right now at this time," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. "It's massive. It begs more questions at this point that have yet to be answered."

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill, said she disagreed "vehemently" with the proposal.

"I agree that the debt and the deficits are unsustainable, but this is not the way to do it," she said.

"We can make Social Security solvent for another 75 years with modest increases in revenue and that is not the direction in this chairman's proposal, so I am very vehemently against that proposal," she stated.

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