Does Anyone in Washington Understand the Simpson-Bowles Plan?

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

Steve Benen draws my attention to Sen. Lindsey Graham’s comments on Face the Nation yesterday regarding a “grand bargain” on deficit reduction:

“Say yes to Simpson-Bowles, Mr. President. I’m willing to say yes to Simpson-Bowles,” Graham said. Graham said Washington needs more revenue, but that the revenue should come from closing tax loopholes and deductions for the rich, not from raising tax rates. “Mr. President, if you will say yes to Simpson-Bowles when it comes to revenue, so will I and so will most Republicans. We can get revenue without destroying jobs,” Graham said.

Really? Most Republicans will agree to this? Can we talk?

First: Of the $2.1 trillion in discretionary spending cuts proposed by Simpson-Bowles, we’ve already enacted $1.5 trillion of them. That doesn’t count any of the fiscal cliff/staircase stuff, either. It’s all solid cuts. So if we “say yes” to Simpson-Bowles, it means we’re saying yes to only a small amount of additional discretionary cuts. (There are also some Social Security and Medicare proposals in the plan, but for now I’m just focusing on the tax and discretionary spending stuff.)

Second: Has Graham actually read the tax proposal in Simpson-Bowles? I’ve annotated it below for easy reference, but just to hit some of the highlights:

  • Itemized deductions go away completely, replaced by a tax credit capped at 12% of income.
  • The capital gains rate would increase from 15% to 28%.
  • On average, about a quarter of the value of your health benefits would be subject to tax. This would go up over time.
  • Tax-free municipal and state bonds would be eliminated.
  • “Nearly all other” tax expenditures would also be eliminated. This sounds easy when you put it like that, but every one of those tax expenditures has a constituency. Just because you’ve never heard of them doesn’t mean no one cares about them

Does Graham really think Republicans would agree to this? It’s true that ordinary income tax rates would go down under this proposal, but total taxes paid would go up significantly, especially at the high end. House Republicans refused to support this back when it was first proposed, and I can’t think of any reason they’d support it now. Especially when this $2.6 trillion tax increase would be complemented by only modest additional discretionary spending cuts. What does Graham think he knows that I don’t?

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate