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Idea of the Day: To Reduce the Deficit, We Need to Reduce Hidden Spending in the Tax Code

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As Washington heads into the next round of budget negotiations, congressional Republicans are again asserting that every dollar of future deficit reduction must come from cutting government programs and services, not from additional revenue. Congress has already cut spending substantially, however: Three-quarters of the $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction that had been enacted since 2011 has been in the form of spending cuts, and only one-quarter has come from increasing revenue. While Congress raised the top marginal tax rate in the recent legislative deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, it has not even begun to tackle the vast array of tax breaks that disproportionately benefit upper-income Americans, nor has it addressed the many loopholes enjoyed by large corporations. These special tax breaks must be on the table going forward if Congress is committed to a balanced approach to solving our fiscal challenges.

CAP has identified about $1 trillion in potential savings over 10 years that can be gained from reducing or reforming tax breaks for high-income individuals and corporations. That amount would be more than enough to replace the so-called sequester, the sudden and indiscriminate cuts to government programs that are now scheduled to take effect starting in March.

These common-sense reductions in tax breaks are far preferable to many of the alternatives: allowing the sequester to kick in; enacting deeper cuts to discretionary spending programs, which have already been cut to the bone; or reducing Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits.

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This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

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