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Reducing Deficits While Strengthening the Safety Net

October 3, 2011 at 1:46 PM

Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the co-chairs of the President's fiscal commission, make an important point in their new Washington Post op-ed:

The work done by our commission and others has shown that it is possible to reform entitlement programs in a way that preserves and even strengthens the safety net for the most vulnerable while achieving significant savings.

As we've noted, the three major deficit-reduction packages of the last two decades -- those enacted in 1990, 1993, and 1997 -- all adhered to the core principle that the Bowles-Simpson Commission report set forth and the Senate "Gang of Six" plan also would have honored: deficit reduction must protect the disadvantaged and avoid increasing poverty and inequality.

In fact, all three of those enacted packages reduced poverty and inequality even as they shrank deficits, as a result of their inclusion of improvements in programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit (in the 1990 and 1993 packages) and their creation of the Children's Health Insurance Program (in the 1997 package).

Members of the congressional "supercommittee" should keep this in mind as they prepare their own deficit-reduction package.