What benefits would you be willing to give up?
Though getting a bill through Congress that continues the Bush tax cuts for the middle class is a priority, we will soon be faced with decisions on cuts in discretionary spending and entitlements.
Where would you cut? What would you personally be willing to give up? We invite you to share your ideas in the comments section. Take a look at the ideas put forth two years ago in the Simpson - Bowles proposal and the Rivlin-Domenci proposal and see what you think.
The Simpson - Bowles (S-B) report wants to keep the mortgage interest deduction, but limit it to principal residences (no vacation properties) and to cap it at a $500,000 mortgage. Currently, all mortgage interest can be deductible up to a maximum of a $1million mortgage for each home, including vacation properties, and you can also deduct up to $100,000 in interest on home-equity loans. (S-B pp 30-31)
S-B recommends requiring Medicare beneficiaries to pay a little bit more for their health care services by reducing the benefits they get from their Medigap policies. The report sees this as likely to reduce Medicare costs because patients will be less likely to go for “unnecessary” doctor visits if they have to pay for them. Under current law, 80% of the Medicare-approved cost of a doctor visit is covered by Medicare, with the patient paying the remaining 20%. But Simpson-Bowles says that most Medicare beneficiaries also have Medigap policies (which they pay premiums for) which covers the remaining 20%. They see this as encouraging unnecessary use of health services, since the cost seems “free” to the patient. Instead, they want Medigap plans to be limited so the patient is required to pay the first $500 of what Medicare doesn’t cover, and half of the next $5,000 that Medicare doesn’t cover, or up to $3,000 more a year. (S-B p 37 – section 3.3.3)
Rivlin-Domenici (R-D) suggests the establishment of a new national 6.5% Debt Reduction Sales Tax (R-D pp. 17, 38-41) which would apply to many items not typically taxed by states.
R-D wants federal retirees to have their pension payments based on the average of their five highest-earning years instead of the current policy of their three highest-earning years. They also want to require career military personnel to work for more years before they are able to retire, so the military is consistent with civilian Federal employees. (pp. 20, 111-113 of R-D) And they want to change the basis of the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to federal and military pensions to one they contend is more accurate but also is likely to grow at a slower rate (R-D p. 118).
In addition, they suggest that farm subsidy payments be eliminated to all producers with adjusted gross income greater than $250,000, along with other changes in agricultural programs. (R-D, pp. 20, 106-110)
And they want to eliminate preferential rates for capital gains and dividends, currently 15%, so it is taxed at the same rate as ordinary income. However, they also propose reducing tax rates for everyone while getting rid of a lot of deductions that benefit the wealthy. (R-D, p 38, 30-37, 126-128)
Share your ideas – read the reports - and tell us what sacrifices you would be willing to make for the benefit of all of us.