One thing is clear, if the US wants to address the rising deficit, the entire budget must be on the table. What, you say? But that means I’ll have to make some really tough choices and deal with some really tough realities. Well, you can’t always get what you want.
That is the message delivered by the two chairmen of the President’s Deficit Commission on Wednesday. The pragmatic approach, penned by former GOP Senator Alan Simpson and Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, attempts to put partisan politics aside and address that fact that, “America cannot be great if we go broke.”
The proposal totals nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction by 2020 and would:
1) Enact tough discretionary spending caps and cut discretionary spending in fiscal year 2015 to $200 billion below the requested (fiscal 2015) levels in the President’s budget request. Cuts are evenly spread across domestic and defense spending.
Further, the proposal would set up a “firewall” between defense and non-defense (or, they say, security and non-security – which is very different) spending, so money cannot move between the two. This way, as Newsweek points out, “a failure to cut defense could not be made up for with cuts to, say, food stamps.”
Defense Cuts ($bn)
Apply Gates’ promised overhead savings to deficit reduction $28
Freeze federal salaries, bonuses, and other compensation at the Dept. of Defense for three years $5.3
Freeze noncombat military pay at 2011 levels for 3 years $9.2
Double Gates’ cuts to defense contracting $5.4
Reduce procurement by 15 percent $20
This 15 percent reduction would end procurement of the V-22 Osprey; cancel the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle; Substitute F-16 and F/A-18Es for half of the Air Force and Navy’s planned buys of F-35 fighter aircraft; cancel the Marine Corps version of the F-35; Cancel the Navy’s Future Maritime Prepositioning Force; Cancel the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), the Ground Combat Vehicle and the Joint Tactical Radio; and reduce planned levels for “other procurement,” a category that includes communications and electronic equipment, tactical vehicles, and other support equipment and spares.
Reduce overseas bases in Europe and Asia by one-third $8.5
Modernize Tricare, Defense health $6
Replace military personnel performing commercial activities with civilians $5.4
Reduce spending on RDT&E by 10 percent $7
Reduce spending on base support $2
Reduce spending on facilities maintenance $1.4
Consolidate the Department of Defense’s retail activities $0.8
Integrate children of military personnel into local schools in the US $1.1
Domestic Cuts ($bn)
Reduce Congressional & White House budgets by 15 percent $0.8
Freeze federal salaries, bonuses, and other compensation at non-Defense agencies for three years $15.1
Cut the federal workforce by 10% (2-for-3 replacement rate) $13.2
Eliminate 250,000 non-defense service and staff augmentee contractors $18.4
Reduce unnecessary printing costs $0.4
Create a Cut-and-Invest Committee charged with trimming waste and targeting investment $11
Terminate low-priority Corps construction projects $1
Slow the growth of foreign aid $4.6
Eliminate a number of programs administered by the Rural Utility Service (formerly REA)$0.5
Eliminate all earmarks $16
Eliminate funding for commercial spaceflight $1.2
Sell excess federal property $1
26 other options of $2 billion or less $17
These 26 other options include a cut in funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds NPR and PBS; a reduction in funds for the Smithsonian and National Park Service, to be offset by visitor fees; and the elimination of the Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools.
2) Pass tax reform that dramatically reduces rates, simplifies the code, broadens the base, and reduces the deficit.
3) Address the “Doc Fix” not through deficit spending but through savings from payment reforms, cost-sharing, and malpractice reform, and long-term measures to control health care cost growth.
4) Achieve mandatory savings from farm subsidies, military and civil service retirement.
5) Ensure Social Security solvency for the next 75 years while reducing poverty among seniors.
You can see more of the specifics for options 2-5 in the CoChairs’ Proposal, and read over the finer details of the discretionary savings outlined above in the document titled, $200 Billion in Illustrative Savings.
Of course, none of this is final – not even close. It will take the support of 14 out of 18 commission members for Congress to even consider the proposal. Congressional leaders have promised they will do so regardless, but limited support from the commission will likely serve to justify limited support from Congress.