Sen. Mark Warner
appearing on Face the Nation
yesterday said, apparently with pride, that the bipartisan Gang of Six senators that's been working on putting the non-report of the catfood commission in to legislative language, is "going to make everybody mad with our approach." Apparently you can only be considered a Very Serious Person if you make everybody mad (i.e., cut Social Security), regardless of whether that makes good policy sense.
In this case it doesn't make sense.
"What we're doing is we're saying everything has to be on the table," [Warner] said. "Entitlement reform, dramatic spending cuts, looking at tax reform." While Ryan's plan primarily talks about lowering tax rates, Warner said the gang of six is also looking at raising revenue by eliminating some of the tax expenditures.
While getting rid of such deductions may be considered an increase in taxes, Warner said the group will not propose actually raising tax rates:
WARNER: Bob, I think you've got to look at both sides of the ledger. Long before I was in politics, I spent 20 years in business. I built companies. And you've got to look at the revenue side. You've got to look at the spending side.
We're looking at a ratio of about $3 in cuts for every additional dollar in revenues. And the revenues we're talking about literally are coming from lower rates, where we can lower our rates on individual and on corporate rates back to where they're much more competitive on a worldwide basis. But we're getting rid of a number of the tax expenditures.
I mean, a fact that I'm not sure most Americans realize -- we collect about $1 trillion a year in income taxes, yet we have $1.2 trillion a year in income tax expenditures, deductions, many of them that are popular, charitable deduction, home mortgage deduction. If we would cut back on some of those, we could actually lower rates and still increase revenues.
SCHIEFFER: So that's where you would get the additional revenues, by eliminating deductions, not necessarily by raising taxes?
WARNER: We're not talking about raising taxes.
Well that changes things, doesn't it? The Gang of Six is looking at making everybody mad except the extremely wealthy. The middle-class families who have to have both parents, and maybe the teenagers as well, working in order to make ends meet are going to lose their mortgage deduction, but those Wall Street CEOs aren't going to see their tax bill increase. To their credit, Democratic Senators Kent Conrad (ND) and Dick Durbin (IL) have apparently argued that Social Security should be handled separately from these budget negotiations. That, however, is a week-old story, so judging by Warner's remarks yesterday, they've folded on this.
But wait, it gets even better. Steve Benen:
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), another gang member, told Fox News yesterday that the agreement will also include spending caps on mandatory and discretionary spending, which is hopelessly insane.
By all appearances, Democrats in this group are prepared to effective give up any hopes of progressive governance for a generation and give in to entitlement cuts, in exchange for tax increases that sane Republicans should consider a no-brainer anyway.
If the gang reaches an agreement, and it looks like the one being talked about by its members, I'm hard pressed to imagine how it could pass.
I hope Steve's right. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said Social Security cuts are not going to happen on his watch, and it's hard to imagine enough Democratic Senators willing to put their principles as Democrats, but more importantly their reelection, on the line and vote to cut Social Security.
But one thing should be crystal clear: Social Security cuts with no tax increases is not a serious proposal.