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tv   CBS Evening News With Katie Couric  CBS  December 1, 2010 5:30pm-6:00pm PST

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newals. renewals. . >> couric: tonight, the long- awaited plan for cutting the deficit, but will anyone buy it? >> we've got to bring this debt down. that means tough choices. i'm katie couric. we'll be taking a closer look at some of those choices, including what can be cut from medicare and the defense budget. also tonight, how prisoners are ripping off the i.r.s., cbs news investigates. and 13 kids and counting-- there are no limits to this family's love and american spirit. captioning sponsored by cbs from cbs news world headquarters in new york, this is the "cbs evening news" with katie couric. >> couric: good evening, everyone.
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well, it's as simple as this the government is spending far more money than it's taking in. what's incredibly difficult is how do we finally get our financial house in order? it will mean a lot of tough choices spelled out today by the commission president obama established to come up with recommendations for getting this country out of debt. and that debt is enormous, well over 13 trillion. to start chipping away at it, the bipartisan commission put out 59 pages of proposals, everything from raising taxes on gasoline to cutting spending on entitlements. there is plenty of pain to go around, so we're devoting much of this broadcast tonight to laying it out for you. our first stop, the white house, and chip reid. and, chip, there's a real sense of urgency in this report. >> reporter: well, katie, one of the cochairmen of the commission said today the nation's debt burden is like a cancer that could destroy the nation from within if dramatic steps are not taken soon. >> the problem is real. the solutions are all painful, and there's no easy way out.
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>> reporter: the debt commission's report ominously title the "the moment of truth," sets out a blueprint for cutting $3.9 trillion in deficits over the next nine years but the plan for getting there is 59 pages of excruciating choices. federal spending would be slashed, the federal workforce cut by 10% or 200,000 jobs, more than $100 billion in cuts from defense. on social security, benefits would be cut for upper incomes and the retirement age would rise from 67 to 69 by the year 2075. >> i hope that gives people time to get prepared for it. >> reporter: on taxes, rates would be cut, the highest bracket of 35% could go as low as 23, but annual tax payments would increase an average of more than $1,700 per taxpayer because dozens of popular tax breaks, including the mortgage interest deductions for homes over $500,000 would be slashed or eliminated.
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most of the increased tax burden would fall on the wealthy, but millions of americans would be hit by a new tax on employer- provided health plans and the gas tax would be doubled, another 15 cents a gallon. the commission will vote on the plan friday. 14 of the 18 members must vote "yes" for it to be sent to congress. six members of the commission were appointed by president obama. five of them support plan. another six members are senators, three democrats and three republicans. two support the plan so far, the other four are undecided. but the six house members of the commission are sharply divided. all three republicans are conservatives who say the plan relies too much on tax increases and too little on cutting entitlement programs like medicare. >> if taxes are going to be put on the table, i believe health care is going to have to be put on the table. >> reporter: and two of the three house democrats are liberals concerned that the poor and elderly are being asked to give up too much. >> sacrifice in fact has not been shared. >> reporter: budget experts say
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putting off the tough choices in this report will be disastrous. >> it's not a matter of if we're going to have a crisis. it's only a matter of when. and that crisis could well take the form of a depression. >> reporter: the two cochairmen of the commission said today it's unlikely congress will summon the courage to pass the plan as it is, but they said at least it's started a serious discussion about a deadly serious issue. katie. >> couric: chip reid at the white house, tonight. thank you, chip. before the ink is even dry on the commission's report, a battle is under way on one big- ticket item-- extending benefits for the long-term unemployed, those who have been out of work for six months or more. the government has spent $160 billion this year on these benefits and extending them into next year would cost another $65 billion. let the benefits lapse or find a way to pay for them, a tough choice for congress. here's congressional correspondent nancy cordes. >> reporter: unemployed workers from philadelphia and new york boarded buses bound for
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washington this morning urging congress to reinstate their lapsed unemployment benefits. >> we, the unemployed, are jobless through no fault of our own. >> reporter: those benefits expired for more than 800,000 jobless americans last night and will run out for more than a million more if congress doesn't act by the end of the year. 57-year-old james dias of queens is an out-of-work bricklayer. how long have you been on unemployment benefits now? >> six months. >> reporter: have you been looking for work? >> yes, but there's no work. >> reporter: congress has extended unemployment insurance benefits eight times since the economy tanked in 2008, seven of those times without paying for it. >> just kind of being raised by an old country boy. it seems like we keep putting band-aids on a body that has a cut artery. >> reporter: republicans are demanding the benefits be offset by other cuts. democrats say it's an emergency. >> i find it difficult to
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understand how some of my colleagues on the other side would object to an extension of unemployment benefits for a year that are not offset but at the same time, insist that we provide tax cuts for the very richest americans without paying for them. >> reporter: contributing to the pressure cooker environment, republicans issued an ultimatum in a letter to majority leader harry reid today, refusing to proceed to any legislative item until the senate has acted to fund the government and prevented the tax increase. house democrats have called for a vote on extending the bush tax cuts for the middle class tomorrow but that actually infuriated republicans who want them extended to everyone. katie. >> couric: all right, nancy cordes on capitol hill, nancy, thanks very much. reducing our debt is, of course, not just about money but politics, a specialty of bob schieffer, our chief washington correspondent and anchor of "face the nation." bob, when only two of the 12
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elected officials on the commission say they can support the recommendations, that certainly doesn't bode well for them to be enacted by congress. >> no, katie, i think it would take a biblical worthy miracle to pass this right now. we keep talking about the divide between liberals and conservatives in this country but really what this commission underlines is the real and more important divide, the divide between elected officials and the people they represent. every survey we take shows voters want compromise, but these elected officials are so afraid of their party base and the special interests that they see compromise as political suicide, and that's what you see we have illustrated here. in contrast, the non-elected officials on the commission seem overwhelmingly in favor of the recommendations, and that in a nutshell is the dilemma of american politics and that's where we are. >> couric: pretty depressing, bob. where do we go from here? >> well, i don't think we're going to go very far because it's not going to get better in the new congress. the moderates got beat in this year's election.
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in next year's congress the democrats will be more liberal, the republicans more conservative, democratic officeholders are afraid to cut back on the entitlement, republicans are afraid to raise taxes. and as long as both sides see compromise as political suicide nothing is going to happen except the problem is going to get worse. >> couric: okay. thanks so much, bob, for that, appreciate it. >> couric: anyway, with so much at stake, we'll be taking a closer look in the days and weeks ahead at the tough choices this country will have to make to reduce the sea of red ink. we talked about the cost of unemployment insurance. tonight we also focus on medicare and the defense budget. the pentagon is a very big target for budget cutters. the current budget is $715 billion, the money going for everything from personnel to 80 different weapon systems, including the newest in the line of stealth fighters, the f-35. a quarter of the $100 billion the commission wants to cut from
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defense would come from the f- 35. david martin tells us that presents some tough choice for the man who runs the pentagon. >> reporter: the challenge is to build 2,500 radar-evading stealth fighters at $382 billion the single-most expensive weapons program without breaking the pentagon bank. >> we, obviously, have a huge investment in this aircraft. it is the heart of the future of tactical combat, aviation for our services. >> reporter: the air force, navy, and marines are all counting on the, if-35, yet, it is already four years behind schedule and more than 50% over budget, prompting defense secretary gates to fire the program director. >> the progress and performance of the f-35 over the past two years has not been what it should. >> he banks the ranch on the f- 35, and it failed him. >> reporter: the choice suggested by the deficit reduction commission is to kill the short takeoff and landing
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version being built for the marine corps, saving an estimated $17.6 billion between now and 2015. then, cut the number of f-35s for the air force and navy in half, saving $9.5 billion. that would eliminate $2.1 that would eliminate $27.1 billion over five years. but it would also lead to services having to depend on current-generation fighters which because they are not stealthy are becoming increasingly vulnerable to modern air defenses. buying fewer f-35s also would further increase the cost of each airplane. >> if you reduce the buy down to a few hundred for the air force and a few hundred for the navy, we're going to be paying well in excess of $250 million per copy for this airplane. >> reporter: the f-35 is too big to fail, but without make something tough decisions, it could also be too expensive to afford.
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david martin, cbs news, the pentagon. >> couric: two other big programs that can't be allowed to fail are medicare and social security. but they and other entitlements are also being targeted by the commission. all told, they account for more than six out of every $10 the government spends. social security makes up 20% of the total budget, medicare 13%. that health insurance program for americans 65 and over is extremely popular but very expensive. so as national correspondent ben tracy reports, reining it in will require some tough choices as well. >> reporter: the challenge for medicare is to keep the program alive while also keeping aging patients alive. 47 million americans are on medicare at a cost of $468 billion, about 13% of the federal budget. barbara hayes is on medicare. she's dying of colon cancer, i could have six days. i could have six months. i don't know. >> reporter: for her recent
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chemotherapy, medicare was billed $155,000. >> if i didn't have medicare, i'd be up the creek. >> reporter: but medicare is also up a creek. in the next ten years, as baby boomers age, 14 million more seniors will pour into the program. by 2020, medicare spending is expected to be $1 trillion, two- thirds of today's federal budget deficit. >> essentially, medicare is the primary driver of all the fiscal problems we face in the united states. >> reporter: so the deficit panel offers some tough choices. first, people on medicare will likely have to pay more. right now, about 90% of beneficiaries pay virtually nothing for medicare services. under the panel's proposal, everyone would pay at least a $500 deductible and up to $1,650 in out-of-pocket expenses each year. >> in this case, by asking people to pay more, they will end up using less, and that will reduce the total spending in the medicare program. >> reporter: secondly, medicare will no longer reimburse doctors and hospitals for patients who
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don't pay their out-of-pocket expenses. health care providers will either have to go after the patient or eat the cost. accepting these two choices would save an estimated $133 billion by 2020, 9% of today's deficit. ben tracy, cbs news, los angeles. >> couric: now if you'd like to weigh in on the tough choices we face, you can go to and tell us which programs you would keep and which ones you would cut. from news that private employers added 93,000 jobs last month helped send the dow up nearly 250 points, the biggest gain in three months. and still ahead tonight on the "cbs evening news," taking some very special kids and making them a family. tonight's "american spirit." but first, inmates doing hard time have an easy time making money off phony tax returns. returns.
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>> couric: one way to cut government spending is to crack down on tax fraud. it cost taxpayers $1.5 billion last year. tonight, chief investigative correspondent armen keteyian reports on a group of tax cheats that already know a little something about crime. they're running a multi-million- dollar tax scam from behind bars. >> reporter: while working in prison, inmates learn the meaning of hard time. pay is limited to an average of
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just 35 cents an hour, well below what's required to file a federal tax return but cbs news has learned that hasn't stopped tens of thousands of prisoners from ripping off the i.r.s. at taxpayer expense. >> you are in prison anyway, what are they going to do? >> reporter: prisoners like this man who asked that we conceal his identity are filing bogus tax returns from behind bars, a scam so big, cbs news has learned prisoners last year collected a staggering $130 million in tax refunds they didn't deserve. >> they were just fill out the forms. >> reporter: using basic tax forms available inside all prisons, state and federal inmates claim phony income or tax credits, often with no supporting documents. the refund checks they collect range from a few hundred dollars to as much as $8,000 each. some prisoners file multiple returns year after year.
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>> they'll file 10, 20 of them at a time just to see which ones do come through and which ones don't. >> reporter: this i.r.s. document obtained exclusively by cbs news shows inmates filed nearly 45,000 bogus returns for the tax year 2009. florida, georgia, and california state prisons topped the list. the single worst offender was this ohio facility where nearly 30% of the inmates filed false returns but when we contacted the prison, they had no idea about the problem, saying in an e-mail, "this is not an issue." >> the i.r.s. is processing these returns. it makes no sense. >> j. russell george is the treasury inspector general for tax administration. he' this report finds more than a quarter million tax returns filed by prisoners for 2009 were never reviewed by the i.r.s. that's 88%.
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>> the i.r.s. could have easily, in our view, identified these people and yet failed to do so. >> reporter: the i.r.s. refused to talk to us about this scam, but in response to the inspector general's report, said it's not practical to verify every prisoner tax return and that other fraud takes priority. so for now, when it comes to doing time, it appears crime really does pay. armen keteyian, cbs news, new york. >> couric: now imagine being accused of a murder you didn't commit. one man's internet nightmare when we come back. ♪
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way to brew. [ female announcer ] so with keurig, every cup tastes like it's brewed just for you. ♪ because it is. choose. brew. enjoy. keurig. >> couric: >> couric: europe got hit today by an early snowstorm blanketing much of the continent with as much as a foot in some places. that made a mess of air travel, 600 flights were canceled when london's gatwick airport shut down. the freezing cold in europe has been blamed for nine deaths. now be honest, have you ever googled yourself? when 18-year-old zachary garcia searched his name on the internet, he was shocked to learn he was accused of murder. his picture was in a story about a robbery gone bad in polk county, florida.
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the university of florida freshman has no criminal record and works two jobs. turns out the real murder suspect is also named zachary garcia, though with a different spelling. someone in the sheriff's office goofed and released the wrong picture to the media. so what are people searching for on the internet these days, besides themselves? yahoo!'s list of the most popular searches of 2010 has pop princess miley cyrus at number three, soccer fans helped make the world cup number two, and the top search on yahoo! this year, that's right, the b.p. oil spill. coming up next, this family might very well change the way you think about hiv and aids. ÷ ,,
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giving members of one bay area choir a reason to sing? next >> couric: at the white house today a giant red ribbon marked world aids day. there has been tremendous progress. in the past ten years, the hiv infection rate around the world has fallen by 20%. still, aids killed nearly two million people last year and 30 children still die of it every hour. a family in joliet, illinois, is determined to do something about that. national correspondent dean reynolds has their story in tonight's "american spirit." >> reporter: in a quiet subdivision on an unassuming street, there's a house that is very much a home. how many kids? >> 13. >> reporter: 13 kids. it's not just the size of carolyn and kyle tweetmyer's brood, it's the makeup to their seven kids they've added six more, all adopted from ethiopia. >> it's such a miracle if you think about the fact our family
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is built from across the world. >> reporter: but it's not just the makeup. it's also the medical history. one of their ethiopian children has aids, a second is hiv positive. >> if your child had some terrible disease, would you not do everything you can for them? >> reporter: originally the tweetmyers were looking to adopt one special needs child but soon found in ethiopia aids had wiped out entire families, so when they adopted sam, with hiv, they adopted his brother and sister, too. then unable to forget a little girl at the orphanage, they returned to adopt sala. even though she was very ill. that's her arm when she was 11. today, sala's 13 and her aids is controlled. so tell me how you're feeling? >> i feel very good here. >> reporter: and, yes, to keep sala's family together, the tweetmyers adopted her brother and sister. where does everybody sleep? >> in this house.
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>> there are bunk in the bedrooms. >> sam, hank, and seth. >> and bedrooms in the basement. and no special precautions are needed, just the same common sense, they say, parents use for all kids. indeed, to overcome ignorance about adopting kids with treatable aids and hiv, the tweetmyers launched project hopeful. an estimated 2.5 million children worldwide are infected with hiv, the virus that causes aids. >> it's all about educating, encouraging and enabling families. >> reporter: when we visited this week, their house was full of children. many of them were hiv positive, all adopted by other project hopeful families. the tweetmyers are not wealthy and they have a long road ahead of them, the light in the eyes of their children. dean reynolds, cbs news, joliet, illinois. >> and that is the "cbs evening news" for tonight. i'm katie couric, thanks for watching. i'll see you tomorrow.
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two cities, fighting for one baseball team. who just missed a fat hanging curve ball battle between oakland oakland has been to bat many times. two cities fighting for one baseball team. a fat happening curveball in the battle between oakland and san jose. >> going into san francisco is just bad policy. another civic fight brewing on the peninsula. era of unfettered toll free driving, is it coming to an end? it is not exactly jailhouse rock but it was penned in an iranian prison. the latest effort to free those two detained hikers. i'm dana king. >> i'm allen martin. a de


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