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The deficit supercommittee: Hints of a deal or a false dawn?

AMERICA is at an impasse over its finances because, in a nutshell, Democrats will not agree to less generous social entitlements unless Republicans agree to tax increases; and Republicans will not agree to tax increases. This dynamic has produced one showdown already and now threatens another as a “supercommittee” of six Democratic and six Republican legislators seeks $1.2 trillion-1.5 trillion in deficit cuts over the coming decade by November 23rd.It is thus significant that Republicans may be wavering in their opposition to higher taxes. On November 2nd 60 Democratic and 40 Republican members of the House of Representatives sent a letter urging the committee to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion, which would, unlike the $1.5 trillion target, be enough to put the federal debt on a downward path as a share of gross domestic product. All spending and revenues “must be on the table,” it said.Past Republican offers of new revenue have rung hollow because, on closer examination, they included little in the way of actual tax increases, emphasising instead one-off sales of public land, oil and gas leases, and radio spectrum; higher postal rates; and increased premiums for Medicare, the federal health plan for the elderly. One Republican offer disingenuously included $200 billion of revenue from the higher growth their plan would supposedly bring about. Non-partisan scorekeepers…

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