7) What does the Fiscal Commission do to protect vulnerable populations and address growing inequality?
One of the Commission’s guiding principles was to protect the truly disadvantaged. That is why the Commission plan focuses benefits and other services on those who need them the most. The Commission worked to hold the truly disadvantaged harmless from changes in all aspects of the plan – discretionary spending, mandatory spending, Social Security reform, and tax reform. At the same time, the plan asks those who have done better to contribute more and accept a little less.
In general, the Commission does not make any cuts to mandatory programs for the most disadvantaged, such as unemployment compensation, food stamps, and SSI. It also demonstrates how discretionary spending cuts can be made without hurting low income individuals. With regards to tax reform, the Commission required any changes maintain or increase progressivity – and its illustrative plan would actually represent a tax cut for the bottom quintile.
Finally, on Social Security, the plan provides greater poverty protections than current law by establishing a new minimum benefit which guarantees a full career worker a benefit equal to 125 percent of the poverty and grows that benefit with wages, over time; and it provides a flat-dollar benefit bump-up for the very old and long-term disabled.
Most importantly, the Commission protects the most vulnerable by reducing the deficit and improving the country’s long-term fiscal outlook now, through thoughtful and gradual changes. Waiting for a fiscal crisis to force action is the most harmful and inhumane thing we can do, as it would likely lead to high levels of unemployment and force across-the-board cuts in government spending (and across-the-board tax increases). By acting now, we can protect those who are the most vulnerable and reduce the deficit on our own terms.