Ethics & Religion
October 25, 2017
How to Cut - Not Add To - the Deficit
By Mike McManus
Senate Republicans abandoned a key fiscal doctrine by agreeing to
seek a massive tax cut that would add $1.5 trillion to the federal debt
over the next decade. Republicans have criticized spending or tax
proposals that would increase the federal debt that recently hit $20
No longer! Instead of cutting spending or plugging tax loopholes to pay
for the proposed tax cut - Republicans are seeking a massive tax cut
that they claim will so stimulate the economy that the cuts will pay for
themselves - with no evidence.
"The president and members of Congress have spent years warning of our
large and growing national debt and have said their goal was to pursue
tax reform that doesn't make that debt worse," said Maya MacGuineas,
president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "It is
extremely disheartening that the Senate budget may be abandoning that
What I propose is a way to do the opposite - dramatically reduce the
federal deficit. Social Security incurred a $65 billion deficit in 2015.
If its solvency is not restored, Social Security recipients would suffer
a 21% cut in benefits in 2029.
A non-partisan group, Voice of the People, has proposed how to restore
its solvency. It has framed possible solutions to a scientific sample of
the population. Its proposed solutions include pro and con arguments
that are agreed to by top Democratic and Republican congressional
staffers. What's encouraging is that three quarters of scientific sample
of 8,500 people were able to agree on four major solutions that would
cover two-thirds of the Social Security deficit.
- Reduce benefits for the richest 25% of beneficiaries was supported by
76% of people including 72% of Republicans and 81% of Democrats.
- Raise the full retirement age from 67 to 68 was supported by 8 of 10
Americans, including 81% of Republicans. But only slightly less than
half support raising it 69.
- Raise the cap on taxable earnings from $117,000 to $215,000 over a
decade won an 88% support. This step is the biggest deficit-cutter.
- Raise payroll taxes from 6.2% of income to 6.6%, was backed by 76% of
Admittedly, these are only the opinions of 8,500 people - and have had
zero impact on Congress. What if these were the opinions of a million
citizens? Neither the Administration nor Congress could ignore the issue
An American Town Meeting to Fix Social Security
I have proposed a strategy to Voice of the People to harness the power
of the mass media to inform the public on the need for change and on
specific options to fix the Social Security deficit. We would give
individual citizens a way to "ballot" on the choices. Specifically, I
will ask CBS or ABC plus CNN and/or PBS - plus the print media: TIME,
and the Associated Press who can reach all U.S. newspapers - to
collaborate in creating an "American Town Meeting to Fix Social
Security." What's encouraging is Voice of the People has accepted my
proposal. What might it look like?
- TIME could publish a cover story on a Saturday this winter on the pros
and cons of Social Security choices.
- CBS would air a 90-minute Special on Sunday night on the same Social
- AP would publish a package of stories on the choices that any paper
could publish that weekend, localizing the content by interviewing local
- PBS & CNN would air shows that week with their own documentary on the
options followed by a live citizen debate on the pros and cons.
- Citizens could "ballot" on the options via Facebook, Twitter, etc.
I ran a project like this in Metro New York some years ago that involved
WNBC and 15 smaller stations broadcasting 5 one-hour TV shows on such
issues as Housing, Poverty and Environment. In addition, 28 daily
newspapers framed the same issues, and I organized 20,000 people in
small Town Meeting groups. We also published a paperback book that sold
100,000 copies. Some 122,000 people mailed in "ballots." One result:
there was a consensus that low income workers should be subsidized, and
the six U.S. Senators from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut
introduced a bill that became the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Why not cut the federal deficit - rather than add to it?
Give the American people a voice on how to do so!
Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus,
President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist. For previous
columns go to
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