The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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World, nation, state

December 4, 2012

Makings of a fiscal deal behind the hot rhetoric

(Continued)

WARREN —

White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed Boehner’s proposals as “magic beans and fairy dust.”

Boehner countered: “If the president really wants to avoid sending the economy over the fiscal cliff, he has done nothing to demonstrate it.”

Tax rates have emerged as one of the most intractable issues, with Obama insisting the rates on the top 2 percent of earners must go up and Boehner standing steadfast that they must not.

Boehner, instead, has proposed raising $800 billion through unspecified loophole closings and limits on tax deductions.

On Tuesday, the president said he would consider lowering rates for the top 2 percent of earners — next year, not now — as part of a broader tax overhaul effort that would close loopholes, limit deductions and find other sources of government revenue. “It’s possible that we may be able to lower rates by broadening the base at that point,” Obama said.

On Medicare and Social Security, the Republican proposals would do relatively little to curb the deficit over the next decade, but the impact would grow over the longer term.

Raising the Medicare retirement age from 65 to 67, for instance, would wring $148 billion from the program over 10 years, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate last year, about one-fourth of the savings House Republicans hope to claim from federal health programs.

Another idea that gained currency during the Obama-Boehner talks last year would change the annual inflation measure used for Social Security cost-of-living increases and the indexation of tax brackets for inflation.

Many economists and government budget specialists believe the system is a more accurate measure of inflation because it takes into account changes in purchasing behavior

This “chained consumer price index” idea makes modest cuts to Social Security benefits at first — curbing program costs by $112 billion over a decade according to the 2011 CBO report. But those reductions build up more over time in a fashion comparable to the way compound interest builds personal savings.

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