The Peter G. Peterson Foundation gave $200,000 to six think tanks to write budget proposals. The money went to the conservative American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation; the "liberal" Center for American Progress, Economic Policy Institute and Roosevelt Institute Campus Network; and the Bipartisan Policy Center.
On my next Fox Business show, representatives from most of these think tanks will summarize their proposals, and I'll have the audience pick its favorite. It's a "Battle of the Budgets." The winner will get one of the Emmys I won during my days as a consumer reporter. I know, it's corny, but I produce a TV program. If the subject is budgets, I'll use any gimmick to make it interesting.
The American Enterprise Institute plan would reduce the debt-to-gross-domestic-product ratio to 60 percent. It's 68 percent now.
AEI would preserve most military spending, but cut Social Security by giving every retiree an $850 monthly check and not letting 62- to 65-year-olds collect benefits early. The payroll tax would be eliminated on people 62 and older to encourage them to stay in the workforce. The age for Medicare would rise to 67, and the program would be revamped into a government subsidy for private insurance. AEI would eliminate farm subsidies and the child tax credit. AEI would replace all current taxes with a consumption tax like the "Fair Tax."
The Bipartisan Policy Center plan would cut the debt to about 50 percent of GDP within 25 years. It would freeze military and discretionary spending, require people with incomes over $106,000 to pay more into Social Security and "slightly" reduce benefits for the wealthy. Medicare spending growth would be limited to the GDP increase plus 1 percent. Beneficiaries could move to private plans.
The center would cut the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 27 percent and establish a new 6.5 percent "Debt Reduction Sales Tax."
Yikes! A new tax! I'm reminded of Milton Friedman's words: "Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program."
The Roosevelt Institute claims to reduce our debt to 63 percent of GDP. The plan would cut spending by ending the Iraq and Afghanistan wars by 2015, but make no cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. The institute wants more spending on "domestic investment" -- universal preschool, the safety net, transportation and worker retraining. Roosevelt's tax plan would cut corporate rates by 3 percentage points, but create a new "too big to fail" tax on banks and impose a new "financial transactions" tax.