GOP retreat speakers outline distinct approaches to deficit

In a Jan. 10 opinion piece, Hassert laid out specific spending cuts the GOP should pursue, arguing for a massive scaling back of farm subsidies in favor of an income-support system. Current farm subsidies topped $15.4 billion in 2009, and Hassert would target subsidies such as counter-cyclical payments to farmers that ensure they earn a set price for each commodity even when the price drops.

Hassert says Congress should drop energy subsidies such as for ethanol, saying that if Congress wants to foster energy innovation it should tax carbon. He would also eliminate law enforcement grants to localities while scaling back official travel.

Kotlikoff in an Oct. 21 opinion piece called for more far-reaching reforms, saying the current healthcare system should be scrapped and everyone should be given a voucher to buy health coverage. Social Security should be replaced with personal accounts with matching government contributions for the poor. Finally, he argues that the U.S. should declare victory in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring the troops home.

Hennessey said on his website Dec. 31 that “it’s always safe to bet against a big painful fiscal policy change, but if it’s ever going to happen, 2011 seems like as good a year as any."

He argues that the fiscal crisis is inextricably tied to inaction on entitlement spending over time by both parties. Hennessey also hailed the bipartisan support of 11 out of 18 members of the president’s fiscal commission and called it an excellent starting point for reform.