Gang of Six irons out deal

A broadly painted plan by a truly bipartisan group of U.S. senators -- three Democrats and three Republicans, including Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Moultrie -- has been added to the proposals the federal government can consider to bring some sanity back to spending and move away from its "let's max out the credit card" approach.

What the six senators envision is a plan that they say would cut the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the coming decade.

The Associated Press is reporting that the plan would include, among other things, $1 trillion in deficit cuts from increased tax revenue realized through the closing of loopholes in a revision of the U.S. tax code, while another half-trillion dollars would come from a repeal of a long-term health care program in the 2010 health care reform act and cuts from federal health care programs.

AP reported that the plan calls for a $500 billion "down payment" in the form of four years of spending ceilings that would be imposed on daily operations of cabinet agencies set by annual spending bills and by dragging the growth of Social Security benefits, which would have cost-of-living adjustments lowered.

The current income tax system, which has six rates ranging from 10 percent to 35 percent, would be replaced with three rates: 8-12 percent, 14-22 percent and 23-29 percent for top earners. Tax credits for mortgage interest, higher-cost health plans, charitable donations, retirement savings and credits for families with children would continue, but be reduced.

As with anything that comes out of Washington -- or the General Assembly or City Hall, for that matter -- the devil always is in the details, and there just aren't enough in what has been released on this plan so far to know whether it is the best roadmap to follow.

For instance, the cap on daily operational spending by federal agencies and the overhaul of popular programs like Medicare and Social Security will all be determined by congressional committees. What happens in 2016 if that Congress decides it can't live within the bounds of an agreement reached in 2011?

And this isn't the first time the federal income tax code has been "simplified." President Reagan took a stab at that back in the 1980s, and the code today is as complicated as it ever was.

The fact is, the Gang of Six's agreement needs to be examined closely. But so far, it sounds better than anything else on the table and is a real bipartisan effort, which is something we believe most Americans want.

Separately, both Republicans and Democrats have shown that when they are in charge, they have no restraint when it comes to spending. Maybe if they work together like this and take the best ideas from both parties, legislation can be developed that benefits us, our children and our grandchildren.