WASHINGTON -- A protester brought the message of Occupy Wall Street to the deficit-slashing super committee on Wednesday, even as Democrats on the committee sounded like they want to ring up even bigger cuts than required by law.
With Democrats and Republicans sparring over the underlying issue of whether the committee should hike taxes, and whether various parts of the nation's spending are out of whack compared to historic trends, a woman dressed in black interrupted to try to make it simple.
"The American people want to tax the rich and end the wars," said a woman who stepped forward as committee member Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) wound down. "That's how we fix the deficit. And all this obfuscation with percentages of GDP, this is just trying to confuse the issue."
"We would have enough money for housing and health care and everything that we want if we stopped spending our money [on the] military machine," she added before Capitol police escorted her away. "It's very obvious. I speak for the 99 percent: End the wars and tax the rich."
Indeed, that seemed to be the direction Democrats on the committee were heading, and sources confirmed to The Huffington Post that they would like to roughly double the $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion deficit savings the committee is supposed to find.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) attempted to get the sole witness in Wednesday's hearing -- Congressional Budget Office head Doug Elmendorf -- to say that $3 trillion to $4 trillion in savings that included raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans would be better for the economy than the default $1.2 trillion in deficit-shaving that will be required by law if the committee fails to act.
"Which would have the greater negative impact on our economy: finding some revenue from those [wealthiest] folks and getting a deal, or having no deal and not having that revenue?" Kerry asked.
Elmendorf declined to answer specifically, but noted earlier that confidence in the marketplace would be higher if the super committee goes bigger, which he said would inspire more spending and thus a bigger economic rebound.
And while he said he could not evaluate specific tax proposals, he said that the CBO's earlier analysis found that allowing the current Bush-era tax rates to expire next year, as they do under current law, would help the economy more than keeping them in place.
"The negative effects of the extra debt [from keeping the tax cuts] was larger than the positive effects of lowering marginal tax rates for those particular policies that we looked at, again, over the medium and longer term," he said.
Yet Republicans remain adamant that revenue cannot be part of the solution. Democratic sources said that if the GOP half of the committee stands by that position, the Democrats' desire for a bigger, bolder package "becomes moot."
That would leave the mandated cuts of $1.2 trillion set to go into effect, assuming the next Congress does not undo them. Either way, Elmendorf acknowledged that if the deficit reduction is not larger than what is already on the table, Congress will be back in a year or two trying again.
"I think that's certainly right," he said.
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