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Deficit Commission Member Rep. Jan Schakowsky Offers a Better Plan

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Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), one of the 18 members of the Deficit Commission, has offered her own plan in response to the Commission's proposals, which she has rejected. Rep. Schakowsky's major concern is that the Commission's recommendations to raise the age of enrollment in Social Security and cut Medicare benefits will take a serious toll on the middle class. Indeed, the two "deficit Hawks" chairing the Commission have shown their willingness to privatize Medicare and end Social Security, with an out-of-control Alan Simpson blustering, "Medicare is like a cow with 300 tits that keeps on giving" and casting Americans who receive support from government programs as worthless, undeserving, lazy people with his "lesser people" comment. Of course, Simpson should have been dumped then and there.

What a delight, however, to see a Democrat with real cajones -- metaphorically speaking, that is -- while Simpson obsesses about tits. Schakowsky is showing both chairs what "fight back in the sand box" is all about by going on offense, a lesson to be emulated by all Democrats. She has been very clear in stating that Social Security does not contribute to the deficit, is self-financing and is solvent until 2037, paying full benefits and then paying at 80% beyond that date. So why is it even on this table? According to the Congresswoman, there is no relationship between the deficit and Social Security. Most of us already know that, except, apparently, for Simpson and Bowles. But we understand their deeper motivation: decimating our bedrock safety nets like Medicare and Social Security that have been sticking in the craw of conservatives for decades. This is their main mission.

Without Social Security, millions of seniors would have been thrown into poverty during the past 75 years, and will be in the future if Simpson and Bowles get their way. One of America's shining achievements of our history, dumped in favor of more giveaways to the rich. Social Security is a stimulus program that trickles down to every community in our country, paying for food, clothing, housing, prescription drugs and countless other basic necessities. If anything, those benefits should be increased, as the current average payout of $14,000 per person per year hardly provides for the basics, let alone the lavish lifestyle imagined by Simpson and his crowd. An increase could generate further stimulus. Indeed, if we're able to bail out the financial and auto industries, we can increase Social Security benefits for the poor and middle class, who immediately spend those dollars in their communities. The Commission is also proposing cutting the COLA (cost of living adjustment for inflation) for Social Security, which already has not been paid for the past two years.

Of course, the question that begs to be answered is what the negative impact to the economy would be if the eligibility age for Social Security rises from 65 to 69, which is the Deficit Commission's proposal. Since there are no economists on the Commission, this question has certainly not been properly addressed.

The Schakowsky Plan could reduce the deficit by $427.75 billion by 2015, without burdening the middle class. This would surpass the projection of the President's target of $250 billion -- an amount that the Commission's plan would not even achieve.

Schakowsky's plan also calls for:

  • Raising taxes on the highest incomes.
  • Modifying Social Security without changing benefits paid out.
  • A $200 billion two-year stimulus investment, creating jobs and providing economic growth.
  • Cutting farm subsidies and the Pentagon budget by more than $100 billion (both of which are also being proposed by the Commission, though Schakowsky goes further by cutting unnecessary weapons systems, reducing troop levels and other measures).
  • Imposing taxes on corporations that out-source jobs and saving $132 billion from limiting or closing tax breaks on corporations.
  • Letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire.
  • Treating capitol gains and dividends as regular income, which could generate another $150 billion.
  • Removing the caps on payroll taxes for employers and lifting the threshold above $106,000 for employees, and imposing a 'legacy tax' above the cap.
  • And, most impressively, Schakowsky proposes a Public Option for health insurance, which would lower healthcare costs and allow the government to negotiate drug prices with the PHARMA industry to lower costs, like it does for the V.A. Drug costs could become a fraction of the amount that seniors now pay. Tellingly, both Bowles and Simpson acknowledge a Public Option may be necessary if costs don't go down, so perhaps a P.O. could finally be on the way? There is certainly no indication health care costs will decrease in 2011.

Conversely, the Simpson/Bowles plan includes numerous draconian measures that will hit the middle class and, most shamefully, our military, including cutting soldiers' pay and the military's health care system TRICARE. Schakowsky's plan offers no such cuts.

The Commission is expected to approve a plan by Dec. 1st, and then send it to Congress for a vote. In order for the plan to reach Congress, however, 14 of the 18 members of the Commission must approve it. Is consensus possible?

The president recently said on the air that he wants ideas. He must take a look at Rep. Schakowsky's plan alongside the Commission's and decide which one will benefit and speak for middle class America. His response will be telling.

Rep. Schakowsky offered an excellent understanding of economic policy in stating, "The goal of budget policy should be to assure long-term, widely shared economic growth. Sustained long-term economic growth requires that we end the trend of concentrating more and more wealth in the hands of the rich and less in the hands of a middle class that can then afford to buy the products and services that will sustain economic growth."

Hear, hear!

Also see my previous post on HuffPost A Misguided Deficit Commission