The reason you haven't heard very much about the budget talks that were scheduled as part of the deal to end the government shutdown two months ago is because they aren't going anywhere.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Republicans and Democrats are sticking to their same old guns and talks are stalled. Republicans don't want "revenues" (taxes) touched and Democrats don't want entitlements "cut."
As we wrote last year at this time when the country was going over the "fiscal cliff":
Plain old practical common sense should tell people in both camps that:
1. Increasing the eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security for people 20 or so years from qualifying for the programs is not a cut.
2. Reforming the tax code to get rid of deductions and special deals that benefit only a few individuals - or, in some cases, a single industry - is not a tax increase.
As we have stated repeatedly, as life expectancy increases, the eligibility age for entitlement programs must also increase. Social Security was "fixed" in the 1980s by gradually increasing the eligibility age. It is time to apply that same logic to Social Security again and to Medicare for the first time.
The tax code has got to be simple enough for the average American to understand. Special interest deductions must be done away with once and for all.
Again, we believe that deductions based on the number of people in a family, charitable gifts and the mortgage interest on the principal residence should be the only ones regarded as sacrosanct.
Those two elements should be easy for the two sides to agree on. That will not complete the work but it would be a nice first bipartisan effort.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.