Hey, let's cut the deficit -- with compassion

Thanks to former President George W. Bush — remember the compassionate conservative? — I have a good name for the fundamental principle that should guide the Democratic alternative: compassionate deficit reduction. The essence is to cut the deficit in a way that does as little harm as possible to people, jobs and economic opportunity. This principle was implicit in much of what President Obama proposed in his 2013 budget, and in what he said about the deficit at the Democratic convention on Thursday. But embracing it more explicitly would improve the substance of the president’s plan, and make it easier to explain to voters…

A second feature of compassionate deficit reduction is well-designed tax reform that raises at least some additional revenue. Our budget problems are so large that solving them entirely through spending cuts would devastate the social safety net and slash investments essential for long-run growth and economic opportunity. So revenue increases must be part of the package…

Dealing with the deficit will require more than increasing revenue and reforming health care programs. We’ll also have to cut other spending. Compassionate deficit reduction requires that we choose carefully what to trim.

Spending that protects children, such as money for school lunches and vaccinations, must be maintained. So should assistance for workers displaced by international trade and for veterans struggling to recover from combat wounds.