* Final report due on Dec. 1, a month after elections
* Social Security program, taxes said to be on agenda
* Analysts question panel's ability to hammer out proposal
(Repeats with no change in content)
By Kevin Drawbaugh and Donna Smith
WASHINGTON, Sept 29 With just two months left
before it has to issue a final report, a U.S. commission
looking at ways to cut the federal deficit was to meet again on
Wednesday amid questions about its hard-headedness.
Getting the government's budget out of the red and back
into the black -- after years of costly wars, tax cuts and
recession -- will require spending reductions and tax
increases, according to most analysts looking at the issue.
But in a highly charged pre-election political climate,
making hard judgments on these fronts may be too much to ask of
the panel set up in February by President Barack Obama, said
the same analysts, who have watched the commission closely.
Politicians from both parties and a handful of business
community figures are led by former White House chief of staff
Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson on the 18-member
National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.
Bowles is a Democrat who worked for President Clinton,
while Simpson was a top Senate Republican for many years.
As if the panel's job weren't tough enough, the National
Organization for Women and other activists plan to picket
outside Wednesday's meeting to demand Simpson's ouster.
He angered women's groups last month when, in an email to a
critic, he likened the national Social Security retirement
pension program to "a milk cow with 310 million tits."
Social Security is one of several areas being eyed by the
panel for changes. Others include Medicare, the defense budget
and a range of tax policies, including popular tax deductions
for mortgage interest and charitable giving, analysts said.
Factbox on commission's options [ID:nN28192454]
Factbox on deficit reduction panel [ID:nN28101531]
Factbox on the panel's members [ID:nN27111734]
Thrifty N.Hampshire weighs deficit [ID:nN28206447]
Graphic-New Hampshire electorate
Graphic-Projected U.S. budget deficits
Graphic-Treasury yields and Fed actions
Virtually every item on the commission's hit-list has a
political constituency that is bound to be angered by any
attempts at reform, said Maya MacGuineas, director of fiscal
policy at the New America Foundation, a think tank.
That's what happens when a problem like the budget deficit
is left to fester for so long. Easy solutions fade away until
only the tough choices remain. "There's no fix now that doesn't
include political third rails," MacGuineas said.
The budget deficit as of the end of the federal fiscal year
on Thursday is estimated to be $1.3 trillion to $1.5 trillion
-- figures that are hard to comprehend and scare voters.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll last week showed that 57 percent of
Americans see cutting the deficit as a better way to help
recovery than raising government spending, although many
economists warn spending cuts now could hurt the economy.
A group of 300 economists, including former Secretary of
Labor Robert Reich, earlier this month signed a statement
warning of "a grave danger that the still-fragile economic
recovery will be undercut by austerity economics."
Although Republicans are dug in to resist tax hikes and
Democrats are rushing to defend cherished programs, the stark
reality is that the deficit must be dealt with sooner or later,
said Brookings Institution fellow Isabel Sawhill.
"The long-term fiscal picture is just horrific ... It may
take a crisis before we can break the political stalemate. I
have been traveling as part of a 'fiscal solutions' tour and
the public is very frustrated about the lack of action," she
(Additional reporting by David Lawder and Andy Sullivan.
Editing by Eric Walsh)