SPAIN-ECONOMY/Congress needn't be cruel to be kind in cutting the U.S. budget deficit while saving popular programs like Social Security and Medicare.

That's not to say that taxes don't need to rise, deductions pared and giveaways to corporations eliminated. That all needs to be considered, although the recent deficit commission report doesn't do the dirty work in an equitable manner. It places far too much emphasis on paring Social Security benefits, a system that works and won't be in deficit mode for several decades.

There's plenty of pain to go around in the deficit commission's proposal. The most compelling trade-off is based on the idea that lowering personal income-tax rates will achieve some long-term economic stimulus. That thinking hasn't worked in the past and won't work now.

The commission proposal has embraced the wrong incentives based on supply-side philosophy that has never put a dent in unemployment, which only got worse during the Bush tax-cut era.

At first blush, compressing tax rates to three brackets -- 12 percent, 22 percent and 28 percent -- has some immediate appeal. The dreaded alternative minimum tax is eliminated and 150 deductions are pared. To offset the lost revenue from the lower rates, the commission proposes cutting itemized deductions such as mortgage interest and taxing dividends and capital gains at ordinary rates.