WASHINGTON – The Concord Coalition said today that the deficit reduction framework released by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, bipartisan co-chairs of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, is a very promising start to the difficult decision-making process that must be made to remedy the nation’s unsustainable fiscal path.
“Bowles and Simpson have delivered a valuable and sobering fiscal reality check,” said Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby. “Their recommendations put aside partisan rhetoric and get at the essential trade-offs we need to confront among spending, taxes and debt.”
Those recommendations include traditional proposals to trim wasteful spending, but they go beyond that to suggest cost-saving reforms of Social Security, Medicare, farm subsidies, government retirement programs and defense. They also recognized the need to bring in higher revenues -- which they accomplish by broadening the base of taxation while still lowering rates. In short, the proposals make good on the promise to scrutinize all aspects of the budget. And, while even these substantial changes would not produce a balanced budget in the near future, they would reduce the deficit to a far more manageable level within a reasonable time frame.
The co-chairs’ framework will now be considered by the full commission. A final report is due on December 1. The Concord Coalition urges commission members to debate the framework proposals in good faith and to reach consensus on a plan that can be sent to Congress and the Obama administration.
Another example of a bipartisan path to fiscal sustainability will be released next week by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force, led by Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici. This report is also expected to demonstrate that no segment of the budget, including defense, entitlements and revenues, can be ignored.
After years of partisan gridlock, it should be apparent that compromises must be made. It should also be apparent that the American people are justifiably alarmed at the levels of debt we are projected to accumulate in the years ahead, and they want solutions. Through The Concord Coalition’s experience in public forums outside of Washington, we have consistently found that citizens will accept the kind of tough fiscal medicine that Bowles and Simpson have prescribed if they understand the magnitude of the problem and if they are convinced that their elected leaders are serious about addressing it.
Predictably, some policymakers have already begun to criticize specific aspects of the Simpson-Bowles framework. While this is to be expected when any budget proposal is released, the serious fiscal challenges facing our nation require leadership on both sides of the debate. Policymakers from either party who are concerned about certain aspects of the Simpson-Bowles proposals should not just run from the plan or criticize from the sidelines. Instead, they should make their own tough choices and propose credible alternatives.
“Many people have been calling for a serious conversation about these issues. The bipartisan reports now beginning to circulate will test whether that desire is real or simply an excuse for inaction,” Bixby said.
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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 .