B’nai B’rith International urges the 12 members of the congressional super committee to bridge a partisan divide before deep, automatic spending cuts kick in that could put our nation’s most vulnerable at greater risk. The super committee, created months ago during the debt ceiling debates, has until Nov. 23 to propose a package to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit.
With the deadline about to expire, many in Washington are expecting the super committee to fail. B’nai B’rith urges committee members and the entire Congress to work aggressively in the coming days to find solutions that are good for the country’s long-term economic outlook, and good for all Americans.
Modest tax increases on wealthier individuals may be necessary to arrive at the committee’s goals. Choosing instead to cut benefits for the elderly and programs for the poor simply shifts costs to states, individuals and families. Asking elderly and low-income Americans to bear the brunt of deficit reduction is simply unfair. Cuts to programs for middle- and lower-income families hurt those families and also reduce their consumer purchasing power, further depressing our economic growth.
The solutions are out there. With at least half a dozen deficit commissions, panels, think tanks and stakeholders working throughout the last 18 months, we have seen myriad proposals that would address the projected growth of the debt over the next 10 years.
“Within these proposals are sufficient options to meet the super committee’s goals in ways that are fair, and that neither stifle economic growth nor place the fiscal burden on the backs of those who can least afford it,” Allan J. Jacobs, B’nai B’rith International president, said.
Deficit reduction can and should be done without breaking the promises of Medicare and Social Security, or shaving more from already thin budgets for programs like low-income housing and other services for the elderly.
Most bipartisan and non-partisan commissions and reports have recommended spending reductions combined with revenue increases to address the deficit problem. So far Congress and the administration have been able to agree only on the spending cuts—the most painful part of the equation—but have yet to adopt any of the proposals for revenue enhancement. The most recent polls show the public understands the choice between further cuts to programs for the elderly, the poor and the nation’s critical infrastructure, and revenue increases on wealthier individuals whose taxes were lowered over a decade through tax cuts.
“We understand that raising taxes is always a politically risky thing to do, and that no one wants to walk that plank alone. That is why the super committee process was established—to provide a politically viable mechanism for making hard but necessary choices. Some have argued that this process should require everyone to give up what they least want to. Tax increases and cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other programs are not equivalent in terms of their necessity or in terms of their impact if enacted,” B’nai B’rith Director of Aging Policy Rachel Goldberg, Ph.D., said.
It is possible to reduce the deficit over the next 10 years without returning to an era in which the elderly routinely live in poverty. We call on Congress to redouble its efforts to pursue that goal through the super committee process.