–Several Panels At Work On Ideas To Tackle Long-Term Deficits
–Simpson-Bowles Panel Assumes Highest Profile, But Faces Long Odds
–Work of Fiscal Panels Will Help Frame 2011 Budget Debate

By John Shaw

WASHINGTON (MNI) – With members of Congress largely preoccupied
this fall with the short-term debate over the fate of the Bush tax cuts,
there is not much attention being devoted to tackling the nation’s
deepening long-term fiscal problems.

But several fiscal commissions are at work and are gearing up to
give policymakers some ideas on how to tackle the budget deficit —
whether they want them or not.

President Obama and the next Congress will have plenty of ideas to
mull over as the nation’s fiscal debate moves into a new phase in
January of 2011.

The highest profile panel, the National Commission on Fiscal
Responsibility and Reform, is chaired by former senator Alan Simpson and
former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles.

The panel has met four times this year and has three additional
sessions scheduled — on Sept. 29, Nov. 10 and Dec. 1, the day it is
hoping to release its final report.

The 18 member panel includes the chairmen and ranking members of
the Senate and House Budget committees, the chairman of the Senate
Finance Committee, and a former White House budget director and vice
chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

The panel also includes some of the fiercest partisans of recent
budget battles, including five congressional Republicans who strongly
advocate the view that tax increases should be off the table for fixing
the U.S.’s fiscal challenges and several Democrats who say that major
social programs should be kept off limits.

Obama created the commission on Feb. 18 by executive order after an
attempt by lawmakers to create a panel by statute failed in the Senate.

The commission is charged to issue a report by Dec. 1 that would
cut the deficit to about 3% of gross domestic product by fiscal year
2015 and begin slowing the growth of debt over the long term.

In order for the panel to issue recommendations, 14 of the 18
members need to reach an agreement.

Analysts say it will be very difficult for this panel to reach a
consensus, but some hope the debate generates ideas that could be useful
in future budget deliberations.

In addition to the Bowles-Simpson commission, there are other
efforts underway to assemble ideas to tackle the nation’s grim long-term
deficit outlook.

The Pew-Peterson Commission on Budget Reform began working in
January 2009 and will continue to deliberate until December 2010. The
panel of budget experts is trying to outline a bipartisan package of
fiscal changes to tackle massive budget deficits.

Their underlying goal is to stabilize the nation’s debt to GDP
ratio at 60% by 2018.

The Bipartisan Policy Center has created a fiscal task force that
will be chaired by former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici
and former Federal Reserve governor and Office of Management and Budget
director Alice Rivlin.

The goal of the task force, according to its web site, is to offer
“politically viable solutions for reversing the uncontrollable growth to
our national debt.”

** Market News International Washington Bureau: (202) 371-2121 **

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