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Presidential candidates: Show us your budget plan

By Editorial,

THE MEMBERS of the congressional “supercommittee” on deficit reduction have been chosen, and the panel can get to work identifying at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings. While the committee members scrub budget spreadsheets, we would like to pose a challenge to another group: those who would be president, both the incumbent and his Republican opponents. Show us your plans.

Where would you find the requisite amount of savings — or even more? What, specifically, would you cut, or what tax revenue would you raise, whether by increasing rates or eliminating loopholes? Submit the plans. We will be delighted to write about them, link to them and feature them (in condensed form) on the op-ed page.

Here’s what we’re not looking for: pablum about eliminating unnecessary spending without identifying where. Gauzy rhetoric about making hard choices without making them. Meaningless promises about eliminating waste, fraud and abuse. Broad assertions about where to find the money — “Medicare savings,” “tax reform” — without specifics. Arbitrary spending caps without accompanying details about how those limits are to be met. If you believe, for example, that federal spending should be kept to a specific share of the economy — 18 percent? 20 percent? — show the plausible path to getting there.

The supercommittee is supposed to report by Nov. 23. We think it would be useful for the presidential candidates, and the president himself, to weigh in before this deadline, say, by Oct. 23.

Meanwhile, we would also be delighted to hear from readers who have come up with their own plans. Those looking for a useful place to start making the necessary tradeoffs might check out the budget simulator at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (http://crfb.org/stabilizethedebt), or the budget challenge developed by the Concord Coalition and the California-based advocacy group Next Ten. Those who want to wade further into the weeds would do well to examine the recent reports of two deficit commissions, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, better known as Simpson-Bowles, and the plan developed for the Bipartisan Policy Center by a group chaired by Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici. Weedier still: the invaluable set of budget options developed by the Congressional Budget Office. Send your plans to letters@washpost.com with “reducing the deficit” as the subject line.

There may be no greater challenge a president will face in the next term than promoting economic growth and fiscal correction. Voters have a right to understand how each candidate would meet the challenge — his or her priorities and values as reflected in numbers.

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