Bowles to Moneynews: Bipartisan Cooperation Necessary to Solve Budget Mess

Wednesday, 09 Jan 2013 11:57 AM

By David Nelson and Dan Weil

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Democrats and Republicans must work together to tackle the nation’s budget woes, says Erskine Bowles, the former Clinton administration aide who co-heads the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

“The time for this intransigence on either side, the time for bouncing from crisis to crisis has to pass,” he tells Newsmax TV. “We have to get people to put this ultra-partisanship aside and really pull together, and I think they can do that.”

The parties “missed the magic moment” in failing to come up with a comprehensive deficit reduction plan during fiscal cliff negotiations last year, he says. “It doesn’t mean it was the last moment, but it certainly was a big opportunity for us,” says Bowles, author of a debt-reduction report, along with former Wyoming Republican senator Alan Simpson.

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The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform was created by President Barack Obama’s executive order in February, 2010. Bowles, a former White House aide to Bill Clinton and Simpson co-chaired the bipartisan group, whose goal was to address the nation’s mounting debt, in the wake of congressional inaction.

In December, 2010, the commission took a vote on a proposal that called for a combination of spending cuts and tax increases requiring a supermajoirty to pass. It fell short. Had it passed, the measure would have moved to Congress for a vote.

"I’m very optimistic that we will get something done, and I’m equally realistic that it’s not going to be pretty getting there.”

That makes it all the more necessary to “join hands and make these decisions together.”

Editor's Note: Economist Warns: ‘Money From Heaven a Path to Hell.’ See Evidence.

So what should be done? Bowles suggests:

• Tax Reform. “I can’t imagine any other tax code that could be as inefficient and ineffective and globally anti-competitive as ours, so we’re going to have to broaden the base and simplify the code,” he notes. The slew of tax deductions and exemptions represents $1.1 in “backdoor spending.”

• Spending Cuts. The reductions must come in entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, he says. “If you look at what has been done to date, all the cuts have been in the discretionary part of the budget in both defense and non-defense. Nothing to speak of has been on the entitlement programs.”

• Healthcare. “We must slow the rate of growth of healthcare to the rate of growth of the economy, or it will, for all intents and purposes, virtually bankrupt us,” he adds. Otherwise, no money will be available to spend on everything from education, to infrastructure, to research, to childcare, to defense, etc.

• Social Security. It must be made “sustainably solvent, so that it is actually there for the people who need it in the future,” he explains.

All this can be accomplished “if we do it together, if we all take the blame for it at the same time and don’t try to push it off on the Republicans or push it off on the Democrats,” he says.

“If we come together we can solve this problem. We can restore the nation’s fiscal house.”

That will enable investment in education, infrastructure and the like, “so that America can compete in this knowledge-based global economy and solve this long-term debt problem,” he adds.

“I think we will be able to compete with the world’s best and brightest. So, I’m very optimistic that we will get something done, and I’m equally realistic that it’s not going to be pretty getting there.”

Editor's Note: Economist Warns: ‘Money From Heaven a Path to Hell.’ See Evidence.

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