Deficit commission: four reasons it could fail

Getting to 'yes' on a plan to stabilize the national debt still faces big hurdles.

2. How tight on spending?

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    Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President Thomas Hoenig (c.) meets with members of the House Republican Conference including Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R) of Texas (l.) and and Rep. Mike Pence (R) of Indiana at the US Capitol on Thrsday.
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"Global spending cap" is a phrase on the lips of Republicans but not Democrats. As on taxes, this hints at a deeper divide between the parties.

Neither side quibbles with the idea that, without some big spending cuts, the US faces a crushing burden of either soaring taxes or unsustainable borrowing (as the nation ages and the cost of health-care programs rises). But that leaves room for some hard debate over how much to cut spending.

The commission plan would cap the amount of money that the federal government could raise via taxes. The cap would be 21 percent of US gross domestic product. The commission also stated a softer spending goal: to get spending below 22 percent of GDP and "eventually to 21."

The plan calls for significant curbs on spending in specific areas, but Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R) of Texas said the plan needs some "global" or overall cap to push down spending across the board. "The cost of government [to society] is what it spends, not what it taxes," he said Wednesday.

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