WASHINGTON – The Concord Coalition today praised the plan released by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairs of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and called on other members of the panel to give it their full support.
While some commission members announced their support today, additional votes are needed this week to send a strong message to Congress, the Obama administration and the American people on the need to begin serious fiscal reform.
“This is a credible, responsible and comprehensive plan for addressing the nation’s growing debt burden, which will reach unsustainable levels if no action is taken,” said Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby. “It cuts through partisan rhetoric and confronts the hard trade-offs that must be made between spending, taxes and debt.”
In any plan as far reaching as this one, there will be individual elements that some will find objectionable. The question for commission members is whether, in pursuit of a brighter fiscal and economic outlook, they are willing to accept parts of the plan they don’t like in exchange for parts they do like.
If everyone holds out for their own version of perfection, we will never be able to get beyond partisan gridlock. The deficit and debt will grow, public frustration will build and future generations will get stuck with the bill.
A key feature of the Bowles-Simpson plan is that it requires broad sacrifice. It does not attempt to reduce the deficit through either spending cuts or tax increases alone. Instead, it puts all parts of the budget in play and does not pretend that popular programs can be exempted from scrutiny or that no new revenues are needed.
Equally important is that major elements of the plan are sensible reforms that would be phased in to produce lasting savings beyond the current period of economic sluggishness. These include cost-saving reforms of Social Security, Medicare, farm subsidies, government retirement programs, domestic discretionary programs and defense. The plan would also reform the tax code to bring in more revenues by broadening the base of taxation while lowering rates.
The Bowles-Simpson plan has many similarities to a plan that was released Nov. 17 by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force. That group included former governors, mayors, cabinet members and budget analysts who were Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
“As a member of the task force,” Bixby said. “ I learned first-hand that people of differing perspectives can indeed reach consensus if they put aside partisan labels in a determined effort to reach agreement for the common good.”
“I have also learned from five years of participating in a Fiscal Wake-Up Tour that the public is willing to accept the necessary sacrifices to build a better future if they understand the magnitude of the problem and the realistic trade-offs among the options.
“The missing element is political leadership,” Bixby said. “The commission can begin to fill that void on Friday. If they don’t, it’s hard to say who will.”
The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to fiscal responsibility. Former U.S. Senators Warren B. Rudman (R-NH) and Bob Kerrey (D-NE) serve as Concord's co-chairs and former Secretary of Commerce Peter G. Peterson serves as president.