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‘Moment of Truth’ as Deficit Panel Delivers Contentious Proposals

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The co-chairmen of the presidential deficit commission released a final version of their report today, calling for a contentious mix of federal workforce cuts, pay freezes and tax increases.

At a Capitol Hill conference, flanked by members of the deficit panel, co-chairmen Erskine Bowles, a former Clinton White House chief of staff, and Alan K. Simpson, a former Republican Wyoming senator, announced what they called a “moment of truth”: a proposal, which aims to cut $4 trillion out of the federal deficit by 2020.

The report, which also carries that title, comes in at a seemingly trim 59 pages, but carries within its pages potential “political dynamite,” in the parlance of The Washington Post.

Highlights:

Federal workforce:

  • Cut 200,000 federal-government jobs by 2020, roughly 10 percent of the workforce, according to The Wall Street Journal
  • Reduce congressional and White House budgets by 15 percent
  • Three-year federal pay freeze at nondefense agencies
  • Cut the federal work force by 10 percent, eliminate 250,000 nondefense contractors
  • End funding for commercial space flight.

Social Security:

  • Raise the normal retirement age to 68 by 2050 and 69 by 2075
  • Reduce cost-of-living expenses

Defense Department:

  • Freeze three-year Defense Department pay and bonus freeze for three years
  • Cap noncombat military pay at 2011 levels for three years
  • Increase defense contracting cuts first proposed by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.
  • Close or consolidate a third of overseas bases

Taxes:

  • Increase the gas tax by 15 cents a gallon
  • Reduce corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent
  • End popular tax deductions, such as the child tax credit and the mortgage interest deduction

The final report largely mirrors the draft proposal Bowles and Simpson released last month.

But it still remains to be seen whether Bowles and Simpson can build the necessary bipartisan consensus before the full commission’s 18 members vote on the recommendations Friday, The Washington Post reports.

Twelve of the panel’s members currently serve as lawmakers, including Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) who both proffered support for the likely politically unpopular proposals, according to media reports.

The panel needs 14 votes to issue official recommendations.

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