Tackling the deficit

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 - 4:23pm

The bipartisan Obama deficit commission has made some big changes in its urgent prescription for balancing the budget.

Commission leaders hope the changes can get more political support for the tough medicine the panel says we all have to swallow.

The commissioners minced no words.

"We are headed for a fiscal cliff," warned South Dakota Senator Kent Conrad.

Their new budget balancing plan would hike the retirement age to lower Social Security costs, cut government spending, cut Medicare and hike fuel taxes.

It would also scale back tax breaks like the mortgage deduction and capital gains rates, but lower tax rates.

The commission is divided.

Just a few of the 18 members say they will vote for the recommendations.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin says he's flexible on at least one sensitive issue.

"Increasing the Social Security retirement age is acceptable to me," he said. "To raise it one year in 40 years is hardly radical."

Meanwhile, the new bipartisan income tax team raced to craft a deal to keep everyone's rates from rising at the end of the month.

Getting taxes fixed and off the table will be relatively easy.

As tough as the deficit commission's recommendations are, they would not actually balance the budget, and if just five of the 18 commission members vote no, the plan won't officially go to Congress.

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