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Remember Simpson-Bowles?

If you watched the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, you heard several speakers, including the two vice presidential candidates and the President himself mention Simpson-Bowles.

And you might have a vague recollection of what these guys were talking about.

Here's a quick refresher.

In February 2010, Obama created an independent commission to study the country's debt crisis and come up with ways to solve the problem. The special 18-member committee, which included members of Congress from both parties, was headed by co-chairs Alan Simpson, a former Republican U.S. Senator from Wyoming, and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.

Creation of the Simpson-Bowles or Bowles-Simpson panel

The group officially was known as The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

But it quickly became known as the Bowles-Simpson or Simpson-Bowles (depending on your political affiliation and/or which way the names sound more fluid to you) panel.

When the group's report was released six months later, it was hoped its proposals would be a starting point for, obviously, reducing the country's growing debt. And one way to address that, noted the panel, is through the overhaul of our current, deservedly maligned complex tax system.

No such luck on either count.

The panel needed at least 14 of its 18 members to approve it before the Congress could take action. It got just 11 "yea" votes.

GOP veep candidate Paul Ryan was on Simpson-Bowles and he voted no. And the president himself left the suggestions to simmer on a far back burner.

Benign neglect: Why such neglect on such a sweeping opportunity? Other political expediencies appeared.

The main problem was that Simpson-Bowles proposed doing away with a lot of tax breaks that American taxpayers have come to love. In exchange for giving those up, the panel said we would pay lower income tax rates.

But folks remain skeptical of tax relief promises. There was (is) a general concern that the lower rates wouldn't necessarily translate to lower tax bills once the tax breaks, like the mortgage interest deduction, were gone.

Then there's that natural human tendency to want to hang onto to things that work for them.

And both Democrats and Republicans didn't want to deal with upsetting that tenuous tax relationship with the 2010 mid-term election bearing down on them and the 2012 presidential campaign on the horizon.

Time right soon for tax revamp discussion: So why bring it up now? Because there's one school of thought (dare I say hope?) that as a nation we're inching closer to accepting big changes in our tax system.

That debate will begin in earnest on Nov. 7. OK, maybe not that soon. There will be a few days of celebrating by the winners and nursing of wounds by the losers.

But by the time new members of Congress are sworn in and the president settles into or back into the Oval Office, there will be tax talk.

If you want to do some homework, the graphic below (from page 24 of the Bowles-Simpson report) offers one of the panel's tax ideas: The Zero Plan, which would, in part, consolidate tax rates.

Debt-panel-tax-rates-chairmendraft-111010 Click image (or here) for a larger view.

And on page 31 of the report, you'll find the table reproduced below which offers details on the panel's Illustrative Plan. Click the image (or here) for a larger view.

Simpson-Bowles Illustrative plan table

Give both the no-tax-breaks Zero Plan and some-tax-breaks Illustrative Plan and see how you would be affected.

And get ready to be part of the inevitable tax reform debate.

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