Sen. Mark Warner: 'Gang Of Six' Looking At Social Security Changes, Not Raising Tax Rates

WASHINGTON -- The bipartisan "gang of six" may recommend changes to Social Security as part of its deficit-reduction plan, even though some Democrats have insisted such a proposal would be a non-starter.

"You know, part of this is just math -- 16 workers for every one retiree 50 years ago, three workers for every retiree now," Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a member of the group, told CBS "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer on Sunday.

Warner credited House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for producing a "serious" budget plan but criticized him for not proposing any way to raise revenues while transferring "more responsibility onto our seniors in terms of paying for health care."

"What we're doing is we're saying everything has to be on the table," he said. "Entitlement reform, dramatic spending cuts, looking at tax reform." While Ryan's plan primarily talks about lowering tax rates, Warner said the gang of six is also looking at raising revenue by eliminating some of the tax expenditures.

While getting rid of such deductions may be considered an increase in taxes, Warner said the group will not propose actually raising tax rates:

WARNER: Bob, I think you've got to look at both sides of the ledger. Long before I was in politics, I spent 20 years in business. I built companies. And you've got to look at the revenue side. You've got to look at the spending side.

We're looking at a ratio of about $3 in cuts for every additional dollar in revenues. And the revenues we're talking about literally are coming from lower rates, where we can lower our rates on individual and on corporate rates back to where they're much more competitive on a worldwide basis. But we're getting rid of a number of the tax expenditures.

I mean, a fact that I'm not sure most Americans realize -- we collect about $1 trillion a year in income taxes, yet we have $1.2 trillion a year in income tax expenditures, deductions, many of them that are popular, charitable deduction, home mortgage deduction. If we would cut back on some of those, we could actually lower rates and still increase revenues.

SCHIEFFER: So that's where you would get the additional revenues, by eliminating deductions, not necessarily by raising taxes?

WARNER: We're not talking about raising taxes.

According to The Hill, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has insisted Social Security reform be part of the gang of six plan, while Democratic negotiators in the group, including Sens. Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Dick Durbin (Ill.), have said it should be handled separately.

A budget deal with changes to Social Security may face intense resistance from Democrats. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) suggested on CNN's "State of the Union Sunday that his party won't support Social Security reform as part of a debt-reduction plan.

"I know debt limits frequently have things attached. I understand that," he said. "But I have to tell you, if they wind up holding up things like Medicare, Social Security, these bedrock programs that help people in need, help form the safety net in our country, it is a non-starter, Democrats won't vote for it."

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