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ICYMI: Ripon Forum Summer Issue Looks at Renewed Interest in Simpson-Bowles Plan

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The issue contains a number of articles on the Simpson-Bowles plan, why it is back in vogue, and fiscal policy in general.

ICYMI: Ripon Forum Summer Issue Looks at Renewed Interest in Simpson-Bowles Plan

August 20, 2012

In case you missed it, the cover story of the summer edition of the Ripon Forum looks at the renewed interest in the Simpson-Bowles plan.  The cover features a picture of Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson with the words “They’re Back” and the subheading noting that “At a time when most reports are gathering dust, the Simpson-Bowles plan is gaining steam.” The issue contains a number of articles on the Simpson-Bowles plan, why it is back in vogue, and fiscal policy in general.  Of course we think the issue is a “must read” especially the interview with Fiscal Commission and Moment of Truth Project Co-Chairman Alan Simpson as well  an essay by Moment of Truth Project Executive Director Ed Lorenzen.


In the editor’s note Lou Zickar outlines why he believes the plan is worthy of all the attention:

Amazingly, 18 months later, the Simpson-Bowles plan has been resurrected, and has become something of a symbol – a symbol not only of the tough choices that need to be made to get the Nation’s fiscal house in order, but of what can be accomplished when Republicans and Democrats lay down their political arms and come together for the common good. It is also, as Simpson puts it, “the only game in town.” Tom Coburn supports it. Nancy Pelosi supports it. If he wins a second term, I predict President Obama, electorally liberated and politically unencumbered, will support it, too.


The Simpson interview touches on both the politics and the policy of the plan, delving into subjects such as the plan's recommendations on taxes and Social Security and the role of humor in politics. In the interview, Simpson explains why a final deficit reduction plan will probably look very similar to Simpson-Bowles:

This baby is the only game in town. There’s nowhere else to go. You can go to us or parts of Domenici-Rivlin or the Gang of Six plans or the work of the Super Committee and Obama-Boehner. But the framework has got to be along the lines of what Erskine and I and nine other brave souls recommended in 2010 – cuts to wasteful spending in defense and non-defense, health care cost controls, Social Security solvency measures, and tax reform that lowers rates but gets more revenues.  


Lorenzen’s essay also addresses the question about why the plan continues to be relevant to the political debate, concluding that:

(T)he reason that the plan has had such staying power is that it responds to the public desire for leaders in Washington to rise above petty politics to come together to reach principled compromises on the challenges facing the nation. Above all, they want their leaders to put the national interest ahead of partisan interests and special interests.

It is true that many people and even lawmakers who express support for the Simpson-Bowles plan don’t know everything that is in the plan. But they know that it is a plan big enough to actually solve the problem, that it takes on sacred cows across the budget and asks everyone to contribute to the solution and that it is a bipartisan plan that provides a path to actually get something done.


The Ripon Forum’s examination of the return of Simpson-Bowles reflects the growing support for the plan in Congress as an alternative to the fiscal cliff.  This as exemplified by a letter from Congressman Chaka Fattah to his colleagues and a bipartisan op-ed in USA Today by Senators Susan Collins (D-ME) and Mark Udall (D-CO) that calls  on Congress to replace the fiscal cliff with a plan based on Simpson-Bowles.  As Lorenzen notes in his article:

The impending fiscal cliff….presents an opportunity for action.…..The Simpson-Bowles plan offers a model for a much more thoughtful and responsible path for dealing with the deficit by replacing the fiscal cliff with a gradual plan to stabilize and reduce the debt over the long term without disrupting the fragile economic recovery in the near term.


Simpson and Bowles have sought to capitalize on the growing momentum for a plan based on their work by forming the Campaign to Fix the Debt  and endorsing the Citizen’s Petition to Fix the Debt.  This issue of the Ripon Forum is further evidence that Simpson-Bowles is the right plan at the right time.

Aug 20 2012