This week President Obama’s bipartisan debt commission revealed hints about its long awaited recommendations for reducing the national debt. Since the commission was appointed by President Obama, a president who has increased spending to record levels, conservatives expected the worst.
In reality the debt commission recommendations include many things that conservatives can applaud. According to the Wall Street Journal, the recommendations include many spending cuts as well as tax reform. Many entitlement programs, the largest part of the federal budget, are on the chopping block. The federal workforce would also be reduced under the plan. Social Security would see a gradual increase to age 69 in the retirement age as well as an increase in taxes and cuts in benefits for upper income taxpayers. The plan would also permanently ban the controversial practice of earmarking. The defense budget would also see cuts.
Many conservative groups, such as Americans for Tax Reform, oppose the plan because it raises some taxes. The commission’s proposals would eliminate many tax breaks, such as the home mortgage deduction, in exchange for lower base rates for both individuals and businesses. The gas tax would also be increased incrementally.
While the plan is not perfect, it is a start. One glaring omission is the tremendous costs of the new health care legislation. However, conservatives need to realize that we are entering an era of divided government. A plan originating in the House that focuses on spending cuts will never pass the Democratic Senate and President Obama’s veto pen. Republicans should negotiate for as few tax increases as possible; both out of principle and for the practical reasons that tax increases hurt the economy.
The report of the debt commission is something that Republicans can work with. Starting from this point, conservatives, including those members of the Georgia delegation, should use their newly won political capital to rescue the country from the brink of insolvency.
Doubtless, there will be opposition to entitlement cuts, but the question is not if, but when. Either we can act responsibly now, or we can make even more draconian cuts in the future when the government can no longer sell its debt to finance its overspending.