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Gang of Six deficit details...sort of

'Back in Black' budget plan: Is a debt ceiling solution near?

Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who has managed to tick off just about everybody in D.C. at some point, has returned to the Gang of Six budget negotiations.

More importantly, it looks like the group, which Coburn left in May because he said it wasn't making substantial fiscal progress, might be on the verge of a workable deal.

While he was on his brief working group sabbatical, Coburn came up with his own budget proposal, which he's dubbed Back in Black, using the accounting reference of getting the U.S. back on the positive side of the ledger.

The Sooner State Senator says his proposal would cut the deficit by $9 trillion over the next decade.

In getting to that number, Coburn and crew evaluated "every department and virtually every major government program" to determine if each meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • Not Needed — Serves no vital or essential federal role or has outlived its intended purpose.
  • Does Not Meet Any Need — Little or no evidence to demonstrate results or effectiveness achieving stated goals.
  • Wasteful — Significant amounts of silly or unjustifiable expenditures.
  • Duplicative — Duplicates or overlaps existing government agencies or initiatives.
  • Not a Priority at this Time — Mission cannot be justified within today’s budgetary constraints.
  • Not Cost Efficient — Benefits do not exceed the costs.
  • Parochial — Serves a local or special interest with no overriding federal role and exceeds the limited powers granted to Congress enumerated in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S.Constitution.
  • Mismanaged — Significant amounts of erroneous, fraudulent and improper expenditures, excessive overhead and administrative costs, or otherwise poorly administered or implemented.

The highlights of Coburn's plan range from Congressional cost-cutting, such as freezing the pay of Representatives and Senators and cutting their accounts, to personal individual tax break changes, such as revising the mortgage interest deduction so that it would apply only to primary residences costing $500,000 or less and not to second homes or to equity lines of credit.

How much of Back in Black is part of the new deal forged by the Gang of Six? Not all of it, obviously, as reports are that the latest deal would reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion over the next 10 years and increase tax revenues by $1 trillion by closing a variety of special tax breaks and havens.

Details on the exact revenue raisers and loophole closers are still sketchy, but the Gang's proposal seems, at least right now, to be something that their Congressional colleagues could agree to in order to get past the debt ceiling crisis.

That's good news.

Now all I have to do is get the image of Capitol Hill lawmakers in short pants out of my head.

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