Deficit Panel Pushes Cuts To Social Security
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Mara, tells us more about what's in these recommendations today from the commission.
MARA LIASSON: And this document really challenges the Republicans who've been saying this all can be done with, so far, unspecified spending cuts, and the left that's been saying it can all be done with tax hikes on the rich. So if they don't like what's in this document, this is a challenge to them to come up with their own alternatives.
BLOCK: And, Mara, how did these numbers line up?
LIASSON: Well, they give a lot of examples of how to get to, for instance, $200 billion of spending cuts by 2015, including one of the very smallest recommendations they make, which is zeroing out Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding, which is about $500 million. But they tell you, basically, how you can make income tax rates lower under different scenarios of either canceling or modifying tax breaks, including the mortgage interest deduction, the tax exemption for employer-provided health benefits, charitable deductions. Of course, these are all considered political kryptonite. They're very popular.
T: Will Republicans consider getting rid of some of these tax breaks the same thing as raising taxes? The document also made suggestions about how to control long-term health care costs, and you could say that what they're doing is proposing to man up the new health care law on the cost-saving front.
BLOCK: And, Mara, a final report comes out about three weeks from now, but that, by no stretch, means that this becomes a political reality.
LIASSON: Now, so far, this plan is getting a lot of praise from deficit hawks and big boos from the left, including Nancy Pelosi, who is the speaker of the House and soon to be the new minority leader in January. The president is so far noncommittal. He says, basically, he wants to wait till December 1st when the commission officially reports.
BLOCK: You know, Mara, when I interviewed the commission chairmen earlier this year, they jokingly said, look, here we go off the cliff again. They called this a suicide mission, knowing that all these things would be really unpopular. How does this sell, politically - probably not easily?
LIASSON: And I think this is an issue whose time may have come again. You know, the message of this election was supposedly about the debt and deficit and spending. Certainly, it was the rallying cry of the Tea Party, although the deficit was low on the list of priorities in exit polls; voters said the economy and jobs was a much more pressing issue. But there is a sense that voters are ready to consider the tradeoffs and sacrifices that are necessary, and that voters are beginning to understand that without doing something about our fiscal situation, America will really be in decline, and we won't be able to be globally competitive.
BLOCK: Okay. NPR's Mara Liasson, thanks so much.
LIASSON: Thank you.