WASHINGTON -- The Concord Coalition today congratulated members of the bipartisan majority of President Obama’s fiscal commission for giving their approval to a credible and comprehensive plan that could dramatically reduce future federal deficits.
“The fact that a bipartisan majority of the panel could reach agreement on such a sweeping reform plan lays the groundwork for decisive action by Congress and the President in the months ahead,” said Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director. “ We hope they will seize this opportunity to put the federal budget on a responsible path that can strengthen our economy, stabilize Social Security and Medicare, and protect our children and grandchildren from inheriting massive debt.”
The President created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in February and asked it to recommend a comprehensive program to reduce deficits and strengthen the entitlement programs in the next few years and beyond.
It was an extremely difficult assignment, one that many observers assumed could not be done. Throughout the year, groups from both the left and the right put pressure on the commission to rule out certain options.
“The commission majority, and particularly Co-Chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, deserve great credit for ignoring the special-interest pleas and keeping everything on the table,” Bixby said. “As a result, the President and Congress now have a plan that cuts through the partisan rhetoric, makes some of the difficult choices that elected officials have long postponed, and offers fairness by spreading the necessary sacrifices. And the fact that this plan drew support from elected officials in both parties is particularly encouraging.”
The commission’s plan is credible because it offers specific proposals and does not wish away harsh realities. It attacks the deficit through both spending cuts and tax increases. And it does not shy away from the need to fix Social Security and Medicare so that these important programs will be able to handle the heavy new demands they will inevitably face as the result of an aging population.
The plan also phases in major reforms so that they will not hinder the economic recovery but will start to produce lasting deficit reduction once the economy has strengthened.
The fact that this plan did not receive the required 14 of 18 votes to send it to Congress as a formal recommendation does not detract from the impressive bipartisan show of support for serious legislative action. This momentum should carry over into the Fiscal Year 2012 budget process.
As some commission members who voted for the plan Friday made clear, there are individual elements to it that they do not like. But they accepted the package as a whole, providing an important lesson to Washington officials and the American public alike that must be remembered in the months ahead: Putting the country on a sustainable fiscal track will require compromise from everyone. Nobody will get everything they want, and everyone will have to accept some things they would otherwise have opposed.
A guest column by Bixby about the commission’s work appears today on AOL News at http://www.aolnews.com/opinion/article/debate-a-credible-roadmap-out-of-our-fiscal-swamp/19745387 .
The Concord Coalition is a non-partisan, grassroots advocate of fiscal responsibility. Former U.S. Senators Warren B. Rudman (R-NH) and Bob Kerrey (D-NE) serve as its co-chairs and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Peter G. Peterson serves as president. For more information, see www.concordcoalition.org .