Last week, the co-chairs of President Obama’s deficit reduction commission released a report outlining their recommendations to reduce the budget deficit. Since then, a raucous debate has erupted over the proper measures that should be taken to rein in the U.S. debt.
Yesterday morning, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) appeared on CSPAN’s Washington Journal to discuss his thoughts on the commission and the proper steps to reduce the deficit in general. At one point, the senator explained that even though he “has said we don’t need increased taxes, I’ll take increased taxes if we cut spending. We have to look down the road and solve problems for everybody, no matter what their label is”:
HOST: The debt commission, the deficit commission rather. What is your take on their recommendations, and how realistic is it?
COBURN: Well, let’s set the stage for it. We have to do something. […] Even though I’ve said we don’t need increased taxes, I’ll take increased taxes if we cut spending. We have to look down the road and solve the problems for everybody, no matter what their label is.
Coburn’s words are admirable at a time when literally hundreds of conservative legislators across the country have signed pledges to not raise taxes under any possible circumstances, whatsoever. The senator has been bold enough in the past to call for cutting the Pentagon’s “sacred cows” and has taken aim at defense spending. Given the upcoming battle over tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, it’s particularly important that Coburn is demonstrating a willingness to raise taxes.
But because Coburn is insisting that these tax increases be tied to spending cuts, ThinkProgress would like to present him with a list of cuts that would reduce government waste and favors to special interests without hurting job growth:
– Defense Spending: As previously noted, Coburn is already an advocate for defense cuts, saying that “taking defense spending off the table” for waste-cutting is “indefensible.” The senator can look to the Sustainable Defense Task (SDTF) report released earlier this year. The SDTF — which was assembled by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) was composed of some of the nation’s leading defense and budget experts — identified nearly $1 trillion in waste that can be cut from the defense budget over the next ten years simply by eliminating outdated Cold War-era programs. He can also reference a recent report by Center for American Progress (CAP) experts Lawrence Korb and Laura Conley that lays out $108 billion in defense cuts in the current 2015 budget forecast.
– Ending Giveaways To Big Oil: The government has currently set up a network of tax expenditures and other subsidies to Big Oil that cost the American taxpayer billions of dollars every year. Ending these subsidies would save an estimated $45 billion over ten years.
– Streamlining Federal Education Funding: The CAP paper “Education Transformation: Doing What Works in Education Reform” outlines inefficiencies in how the federal government handles its education funding and lays out ways we can save nearly $100 million simply by streamlining the process.
– Reducing Or Eliminating Wasteful Tax Expenditures: The CAP paper “Cracking the Code: A Closer Look at Tax Expenditure Spending” notes that “special credits, deductions, exclusions, exemptions, and preferential tax rates provide more than $1 trillion in subsidies intended to support public objectives,” yet are ineffective and should be reduced or eliminated. Eliminating this tax expenditure could save $100 billion, for example.
– Reducing or Eliminating Subsidies To Big Agribusiness: The federal government “paid out a quarter of a trillion dollars in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009.” “Just ten percent of America’s largest and richest farms collect almost three-fourths” of these subsidies. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) has proposed — as a part of her progressive deficit reduction plan — a fifty percent cut in federal direct support for agriculture, which would save $7.5 billion in 2015.
It’s refreshing for a Republican senator to admit that there may be a need to raise taxes in order to deal with the deficit. Now it’s up to Coburn to examine smart cuts like the ones outlined above to couple with any revenue-increasing measures.