Not yet indebted to the ‘Gang of Six’

A bipartisan group in the U.S. Senate working on a compromise plan for long-term debt reduction for this country suffered a major setback Tuesday when one of its most conservative members departed.

The “Gang of Six” is now the “Gang of Five,” and it’s not clear what will occur without Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn at the table.

That’s unfortunate, because a realistic plan for reducing this nation’s debt — one that employs the twin tools of budget cuts and revenue increases — is desperately needed. Without it, the country may face substantial involuntary cuts in coming years, including to programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The Gang of Six began its discussions using the recommendations put forth by former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson and former Clinton advisor Erskine Bowles last year. Those recommendations spread the pain of debt reduction throughout U.S. society, and rely on both spending cuts and tax increases to cut the debt.

The tax increases would come, not by raising tax rates, but by eliminating thousands of tax credits and tax deductions for businesses and individuals. The Simpson-Bowles plan would also reduce the number of tax rates and lower the top rates.

Some conservatives attacked those proposals as tax increases, and relentlessly criticized Coburn for agreeing to them. That may be one reason the staunch conservative left the group. Another supposition is that he sought larger cuts in Medicare that Democrats in the “Gang” were not willing to accept.

But, with or without Coburn in the group, the nation needs a comprehensive debt-reduction plan that belongs to both parties, not just Democrats or Republicans.

We hope the “Gang of Five” continues working toward that end. Perhaps one day, we can say we are truly indebted to the group for finding a formula to cut this nation’s debt.


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