In 2010, Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson released a bold plan to cut the deficit and balance the budget. Democrats and Republicans alike, however, rejected the plan by a 382-38 curbstomp in the House in late March of this year. While the plan certainly wasn’t perfect, Bowles and Simpson did propose several great ideas for curbing Washington’s insatiable appetite for spending.
Of those, I’ve picked the ten “easiest” for you to read below. But by easy, I don’t mean politically convenient. These 10 ideas are the easiest to understand, and all of them make very real fiscal sense – which is probably why, nearly two years after their conception, not a single one has gone into effect. Washington isn’t a big fan of practicality.
1. Tie the retirement age to life expectancy: If people live longer, they can both work longer and enjoy Social Security for longer. Raising the retirement age is an issue of fairness, and would also reduce entitlement spending (our biggest liability).
2. Connect Social Security payments to a more accurate inflation rate: We’re currently experiencing a very low inflation rate, and Social Security payments don’t reflect that accurately enough. A lower rate means less spending.
3. Cap taxing AND spending: Bowles and Simpson recommend placing a cap on spending and tax revenue at 21% of GDP, which will at least contain the debt.
4. Reduce loopholes and income tax brackets: A simplified tax code means more revenue, fairer collection, and more incentives for businesses to come to America. Moving from five brackets to three, a Paul Ryan-esque proposal, would be a good start.
5. Increase Medicaid co-pays: The government simply cannot afford to pay huge portions of people’s medical bills anymore. Individuals will have to accept more responsibility for their own personal care.
6. Freeze federal worker wage increases through 2014: This is what happens when a company can’t pay its bills. Why should government employees be treated better than we in the private sector?
7. Eliminate $3 billion in farm subsidies annually: Food in the US does not need to be artificially cheapened, and paying farmers money not to grow food is a disgrace. If there’s no money to be made in farming, you need to find another job. The government’s not responsible for keeping you in a profitless industry.
8. Send all military children based in the US to local schools: I can’t believe we don’t already do this.
9. Cut voluntary UN contributions by 10% by 2015: America has the right to act unilaterally. We don’t need to be spending money we don’t have on programs that infringe on that right.
10. End low-priority Army Corps of Engineer programs: Local governments should have to come up with the funding to continue these projects – after all, they’ll be the ones who receive most of the benefit from their completion.
If you want more information of the commission’s plan, you can go here to get a nice summary. The plan has a lot of flaws, but these ten diamonds in the rough show that there are still concrete, rational steps we can take (whenever we summon the willpower) to reduce the debt and secure a brighter future for America.