The Heritage Foundation’s Harsh Verdict on the Fiscal Commission

by Daniel Foster

Briand Riedl is out with a report on the Simpson-Bowles recommendations, and the title says it all: “Fiscal Commission Report: Too Much Taxes, Not Enough Spending Cuts.”

Riedl says that while many argue Fiscal-Bowles relies “overwhelmingly” on spending cuts, the split is closer to 50/50: $3.3 trillion tax hikes, $3.5 trillion spending cuts, $1.3 trillion interest savings.

Worse, argues Riedl, the vast preponderance of the spending cuts in the first decade come from defense and other discretionary spending. Despite the fact that entitlement growth accounts for virtually all of our long-term deficit, under Simpson-Bowles the annual growth in spending on Social Security and the sundry health-care entitlements would slow only modestly, from 6.5% to 6.2%.

Riedl concludes:

Overall, the fiscal commission would raise taxes by $3.3 trillion over the decade. Yet it recommends only minor tweaks to a broken health care system, fails to repeal Obamacare, and focuses Social Security reform too far on the tax side. Discretionary spending is the only source of significant first-decade spending restraint.

Surely larger entitlement savings are expected in future decades, yet much more can be done sooner. Lawmakers examining the commission report should demand stronger entitlement reform—particularly in health care, with a plan by Representative Paul Ryan (R–WI) and economist Alice Rivlin as the model[6]—and not settle for a plan that leaves the highest sustained tax burden in American history.

Meanwhile, Fiscal Commission member Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) has announced he will support the final report in advance of the final vote today.

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