Fiscal Commission Recommendations: VA Co-Pays, Top Tax Rate 23%
OK, here’s the draft document for the cat food commission co-chair’s mark. In addition, there’s a page with specific “illustrative cuts”, $100 billion in domestic spending and $100 billion in military spending. Between the two, you can get a sense of what Bowles and Simpson have planned. Keep in mind that this is more of a shock doctrine document than a blueprint; they have no support on the commission for all this, and they’re trying to gather it with this early release.
So let’s bullet point some highlights:
• They’re nice enough to wait a whole year to implement the cuts; they wouldn’t start until FY 2012 – in other words, the next budget.
• Their goal is to put revenue and spending at 21-22% of GDP. Their plan would reduce the deficit below the recommended 3% of GDP by 2015, down to about 2.2%.
• They put in spending caps, maybe the worst idea known to man, the kind of program that has turned Colorado so sharply negative that the business community begged the state to lift them. These caps, which are unenforceable, as a current Congress cannot be bound by a previous Congress, would bush spending 18% below the baseline by 2020, a drastic bit of austerity.
• 75% of the solutions in the co-chair mark are spending reductions, 25% are tax increases.
• They want to add co-pays to the Veterans’ Administration and TRICARE, as well as pushing individuals covered by TRICARE into an employer policy. They also want to freeze noncombat military pay for three years. And, they want to end schools for families on military bases, instead reintegrating soldier’s kids into the public school system (because that’s so easy for a military family that moves every other year).
• They would cut the federal workforce by 10%, freeze all salary increases and bonuses for three years, and reduce Congressional and White House budgets by 15%. Surely this is the way to a better and more efficient federal workforce.
• They would eliminate all funding for commercial space flight, as well as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and increase fees at national parks and the Smithsonian museums.
• Increase co-pays in Medicaid and cost sharing in Medicare. In addition, the plan would cap Medicaid/Medicare growth, so that the government would have to either increase premiums and co-pays or raise the Medicare eligibility age if the cost grows above the baseline.
• Massively overhaul the tax code. They have a couple different options on this. In the first, there would only be three brackets: at 8%, 14% and 23% for the top bracket. All tax expenditures – $1.1 trillion, including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the child tax credit, would be eliminated. The corporate tax rate would go down from 35% to 26% as well. Option 2 borrows from the Wyden-Gregg tax reform, establishing rates at 15%, 25% and 35%, increasing the standard deduction, capping the mortgage interest deduction (and eliminating it for second homes), limiting the charitable deduction, eliminating other tax expenditures, and capping the employer deduction for health care. Corporate rates would also go down, with loopholes removed.
• They would increase the gas tax by 15 cents a gallon beginning in 2013, to pay for transportation projects.
• They would pay for the “doctor’s fix” by cutting other reimbursements to hospitals and drug companies, as well as through tort reform (yeah, that’ll do it). They would also speed up a lot of the cost controls in the health care law. They also ask, if health care costs are still rising after the implementation of the exchanges, for Congress to consider a variety of options, including this:
Add a robust public option and/or all-payer system in the exchange
• Reduce farm subsidies by $3 billion per year.
• On Social Security, gradually increase the retirement age to 69 by 2075. They would also institute progressive price indexing to cut scheduled benefits for middle and high-income earners. They would index cost of living increases to inflation and not wages. They would also increase the payroll tax to capture 90% of wages, rather than the current 86%. Social Security savings would stay inside the program to keep it solvent, not be used for deficit reduction.
There’s a lot more in there, but those are the highlights. It’s a very aggressive plan.
UPDATE: More from The New York Times.