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Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Press Conference on Deficit Reduction

 

Moderator:

Maya MacGuineas,

President,

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

 

Speakers:

Erskine Bowles,

Co-Chair,

National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform

 

Alan Simpson,

Co-Chair,

National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform

 

Monday, September 12, 2011

2:30 P.M.

National Press Club

Washington, D.C.

 

Transcript by

Federal News Service

Washington, D.C.


****

 

MAYA MACGUINEAS:  Thank you.  Good afternoon.  (Chuckles.)  It’s a good thing we’re starting this press conference because spending too much time with Al Simpson just makes you laugh – (chuckles) – and laugh and laugh.  So – (chuckles) – and Erskine, of course, is very hilarious as well.  (Laughter.)

Anyhow, thank you so much for joining us.  I’m Maya MacGuineas.  I run the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.  And we’re here today to release a letter that we just – we just had over 50 experts in fiscal and budget policy – former members of Congress, former heads of the Congressional Budget Office, Treasury Office of Management and Budget, sign on to all for the purpose of urging the new special, select committee – otherwise known as the supercommittee – which is going to be working on finding $1.2 (trillion dollars) to $1 1/2 trillion in savings over the coming months to actually take this mandate of theirs, which is not going to be easy on its own, but to enlarge it and, as we say, to go big.

So the thinking here is that coming up with the level of savings they’ve been set at is not sufficient to actually stabilize the debt so that it’s no longer growing as a share of the economy.  And it wouldn’t be sufficient on its own to reassure markets or the rating agencies.  And what we really need to do is bring together a bipartisan plan that would tackle the largest parts of the budget challenge – those being entitlements, health care, retirement and the tax code – and really look at all parts of the budget to put in place, once and for all, a fix that would deal with the situation.

So I’m so pleased today to be able to release the letter.  We have so many wonderful signatories, and the letter’s available for everybody and it’ll be on the website – the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.  But we’ve been joined in this effort by Christie Todd Whitman and Bob Rubin, Christy Romer, George Shultz, Pete Peterson, Dave Coady, Alice Rivlin, Pete Domenici, Jim Nussle, Laura Tyson, Judd Gregg, Bob Cary and I think, most importantly, the two former co-chairmen of the fiscal commission Erskine Bowles and Al Simpson. 

So what I just quickly want to mention is that right now there’s an awful lot of focus both on the need for an economic recovery plan and a deficit and debt plan.  And really putting in place a multiyear plan that gradually brings down the debt so it stabilizes as a share of economy is one of the most important things we can do as an economic growth and recovery plan.  It would add more stability to the business environment, it would leave fiscal space up-front for there to be more efforts to create jobs and grow the economy, and it would tackle the long-term drivers of the debt in a way that I don’t think will be able to be addressed until we really go big and put together a full plan.

So if you look at what’s happened over the past month, we’ve had numerous deadlines.  We almost had a government shutdown; we almost had a government default.  And each time we’ve kind of squeaked out with a plan that maybe moved the ball forward, but it was never big enough to fix the problem.  We keep going to the lowest denominator.  So what we’ve done in this letter is bring together a bipartisan, very diverse group to urge this special committee to go big and actually, this time, go to the highest level and put in a full fix.

So it’s my privilege and honor to turn this over to Al Simpson and then Erskine Bowles who will talk a bit about their experiences on the fiscal commission and why they too are urging the supercommittee and lending them their support in this whole effort to put together a real plan and go big.  Thank you very much.

 

ALAN SIMPSON:  Thank you, Maya.  Well, Erskine and I are available to talk to these fine members of the council of 12, because if we can help them in any way that’s something we feel we want to do.  This is a very difficult task; but they don’t have anything new to go over.  They don’t have to go get an expert here, an actuary here – it’s all there; everything is available to them.  But I think it’s critical that we realize that it’s going to be very, very, very difficult, but we recommended a $4 trillion chop in 10 years and don’t forget, so did the president.  In his speech at George Washington he came up with a $4 trillion figure over 12 years – ours was 10. 

So this is a very interesting thing that people have forgotten.  And 1.2 (trillion dollars), frankly, is peanuts, as we used to say in the grandstand, but they’re going to go for more than that – there isn’t any question about it.  And if they don’t, then this terrible chop that will come, where half of it comes out of defense and half of it out of, quote, “non-defense,” you will find everyone getting their dictionary out to figure out whether they’re defense or non-defense so they can spare themselves when that chop comes.  That’s going to be a horrible situation. 

And I’m ready to leave that to Leon Panetta over in the Defense Department.  He’ll do that himself.  You give Leon enough rope and he’ll do the things he knows how to do.  He’s been a budget committee chairman, he’s a wonderful friend and he knows what to do.  So we can’t let it go to that, but Erskine and I are there – we’re not guiders or mentors or anything else – that would be untoward – but we’re sure there to help and we know four of them were on our commission.  So we’re there to – we know who they are, and they’re good people.

So with that, if there are any serious questions about figures or percentages give those to Erskine.  (Laughter.) 

 

ERSKINE BOWLES:  Thank you both very much.  Al and I are glad to be here.  We do want to encourage these commissioners to go big, to be bold.   I know that in Washington it’s difficult for Congress to do – to ever do anything big or bold all at once.  As I thought back on our experiences in the 1990s when we did balance the budget, you know, we didn’t do it all at one time.  We did it when we had three bites at the apples in 1990, 1993 and 1997.  So it’s difficult.  We did it under two different presidents with multiple Congresses.  So it’s tough.

Fortunately at that point in time, we had the luxury of time.  We don’t have that luxury anymore.  We need to act and we need to act now.  We need to do this reassure the markets.  All you have to look is the fluctuation in the markets on a day-to-day basis and you can see the problems we have.  And we also need to do it to restore public trust and to restore the trust that was lost during the whole debt/default debacle that occurred in July and August, as I think America lost a lot of confidence and trust – people and companies and countries around the world. 

So we got a chance to get it right now.  The $4 trillion number that Al brought up is not a number we made up.  I’ve said often that it’s not – we didn’t get to that number by the number four bus passing us on the street, and we said, well, let’s just do 4 trillion (dollars).  Four trillion (dollars) is not the maximum amount we need to do, it’s not the ideal amount; it is the minimum amount we need to do to stabilize the debt and put it on a downward path a percent of GDP.  And it’s going to be tough.

But I have talked to several of the members of the commission.  And I have some optimism that these members understand the gravity of the situation.  I think they understand the problems the nation faces and how important it is for us to actually resolve this problem.  And I’m optimistic they will go big, and I am for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost, there are lots of good ideas out there – ideas that came from our commission, from the Rivlin-Domenici commission and from the other groups that have come forward with ideas around town.  So there are lots of good ideas for them to choose from; they don’t have to start from the very beginning. 

Secondly, they don’t have to get 80 percent, as we did on our commission, in order to advance something to the Congress for a straight up or down vote – they only have to get 50 percent.  And don’t forget, we got a supermajority over 60 percent.

And third, I think the politics have changed quite a bit since December of last year when we came forward with our report.  I think if you look at the polls today, a majority of Republicans, a majority of Democrats and a majority of independents want this commission to do something serious.  They want them to do a deal that will solve the problems facing our country.  And that gives me a lot of hope to see that.  And that’s very different because a lot of education has come since we came forward with our report.

And lastly, the thing that gives me the most optimism is there’s a lot of pain if these guys don’t come forward with a solid report.  And that pain will come in the form of a $600-billion cut to defense and $600 billion to non-defense.  So I’m hopeful.  Al and I hope that we can provide any help possible to encourage this commission to go big.  I think if they do, the future of the country is very, very bright.  Thank you very much.

 

MS. MACGUINEAS:  If there are any questions, we can take questions.  I also thought – yeah?

 

Q:  Hi.  I’m Suzie Kim (ph) from The Washington Post.  Two quick questions:  One, I was wondering what you made of Obama’s proposal that the supercommittee also take on, you know, his proposed $450 billion jobs plan.  Some details that have been announced today that would be paid for mostly through eliminating deductions and other kind of tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations and so forth.  I’m wondering what you make of that.

And secondly, in terms of the politics, given what happened over the summer just in terms of debt limit debate, why do you feel more encouraged not less encouraged that they maybe actually be come to an agreement?

 

MR. BOWLES:  Those were a couple of questions.  First of all, I think it would be irresponsible to have – to – for anybody to support a stimulus that wasn’t paid for in this kind of environment.  And so I’m glad the president made the decision to not only – when he offered the stimulus, but to make sure that he said every single dollar of it would be paid for.  I don’t know how he’s going to choose to pay for it.  There are lots of opportunities and alternatives out there.  As you know, as part of our package one of the things we did look at was eliminating these deductions and credits. 

And if you were to eliminate these deductions and credits and use, as we recommended, 92 percent of the money to reduce rates and 8 percent of the money to reduce the deficit you could reduce the deficit by over a trillion dollars over the next 10 years and you could reduce rates to eight percent, up to $70,000, 14 percent, up to $210,000 and you could have a maximum rate of 23 percent.  You could take the corporate rate to 26 percent and you could go to a territorial system, which would free up all that money that’s captured overseas now to bring it back home to create jobs and opportunities over here.  So I think having that as part of any plan makes a lot of sense.  But I’d like to see how the president proposes to pay for it before I commented on his specific proposals.

The second question dealt with why I’m more optimistic.  I’ve had a change to travel around the country with Al.  We’ve probably met with 40 to 50 different groups separately and together.  And any time we’ve had a chance to talk to people about this, the – we’ve gotten not only a standing ovation but whether it’s a liberal or a conservative group, they really understand the necessity of going forward with something that’s real and something that’s bold and doing it now.   Doesn’t mean that you have to have all your cuts now, because we’ve been very careful in describing our principles that we didn’t want to do anything that disrupted a very fragile economic recovery, but it does mean that you can address this and address it now.

So I’m pretty encouraged.  I think the whole debt/default scenario that we went through brought a lot of attention on this subject to the American people.  I think they understand it better, and I think they are putting pressure on the members of Congress to do something and do something bold.

 

MR. SIMPSON:  I think there was a – (inaudible) – report that said if you want it, pay for it – it’s very simple.  We don’t have any trouble with graphs or charts out on the road.  You just say if you spend a buck and borrow 42 cents, you’ve got to be stupid.  And this is where we are right now.  And today, this very day, your government has borrowed 4 trillion-600 million bucks – 4 billion-600 million bucks – every day.  And you got to be goofy to do that.  And we tell them that, we just say, look, there’s where we are. 

Somebody said, what’s a trillion?  Well, there’ve been various views of that.  We don’t want to get into religion, but one guy said you spend a million a day since the birth of Christ you wouldn’t be at a trillion yet.  And the other one was, to stay perfectly out of religion, the big bang theory supposedly happened 13 billion-600 million years ago.  And we owe now 1,050 times more than that.  That’s where we are.

 

MR. BOWLES:  Big, big figures.

 

MR. SIMPSON:  Soon as we change the “B” to a “T,” we’ll begin to dig out.

 

Q:  Hi.  I’m – (name inaudible) – from Reuters.  And I was just wondering when you – when you talk about putting these on a – (inaudible) – track if you’re talking about – you know, calling for significant – (inaudible) – now or are you talking about – you know, or is your group in favor of maybe – (inaudible) – and then phasing out those cuts?

 

MR. BOWLES:  I think the good thing that’s in this current piece of legislation is that in the first part it’s $900 billion worth of cuts – 350 (billion dollars) out of defense and 550 (billion dollars) out of non-defense.  The second part of it is this $1.5 trillion dollars that the supercommittee is supposed to deal with.   And the key words there are “at least $1.5 trillion.”  And there’s no limit on where those funds can come from or how much we can do. 

So actually, all the funds could come from revenue, all the funds could come from cutting entitlement spending, all could come from defense.  So there’s no limit on what we do.  And I think that gives the commission the maximum flexibility to actually deal with this problem and to get about $4 trillion of real deficit reduction over the next decade so that we can stabilize the debt and reduce it as a percentage of GDP and put our fiscal house in order.

 

MR. SIMPSON:  You know, there’s an interesting thing – people aren’t realizing that the reason nobody with the credit agencies is messing around with Great Britain or France or Germany is simply because they have a plan.  They may not get there.  We don’t have a plan.  They’ve got to come out – if they do nothing else is to give a plan.  And if they don’t do that, then watch out:  All of the cards will begin to crumble.

 

MS. MACGUINEAS:  Let me just add one thing that I think one of the benefits of going big and putting in a big package is it actually leaves you more space up front from the economic recovery to take hold.  So if you’re only going to go in sort of incremental changes and they focus on that year, you do a lot more on spending cuts and tax increases that year and you have no strategic plan for where you’re headed and you have no stability.

But if you put in place a multiyear plan, that does buy you breathing room and order for the economic recovery to take hold and as long as you lock that up with different kinds of spending caps and other triggers and mechanisms it really allows the confidence to know where you’re headed without having to do anything that’s at odd with the economic recovery in the short term.

 

Q:  Are any of you seeing any indications that Republicans are willing to do a tax reform that is revenue-positive?  Because until now they’ve been unwilling to do anything that actually raised the revenue or anything that isn’t, you know, neutral.  Do you see any indications that that’s changing?  And is it possible to do it – (inaudible) –

 

MR. SIMPSON:  We hear responsible judgments on that from everyone – we haven’t visited with everyone – I’ll be doing some of that, Erskine will be doing some of that.  We’re not saying, be sure to take our proposal; we’re just saying, are you flexible, are you ready?  And the heat is on.  This is the first time that I’ve seen in my long tenure in politics where the heat – the real heat – because if these guys can’t come up with something  and watch this great chop go on, I’m telling you, they won’t want to go home.

 

MR. BOWLES:  And the members I’ve talked to have been very clear that everything is on the table.  And for us to reach this grand bargain, everything will have to be on the table if we’re really going to address our long-term fiscal problems. 

 

Q:  According to some estimates, Social Security has 20 trillion (dollars) in unfunded liabilities.  On the same note, Governor Rick Perry said that it is a Ponzi scheme that tells 20-somethings that they’re paying into a program that’s going to be there.  Do you agree with his statement, and do you think that Social Security is run like a Ponzi scheme?

 

MR. SIMPSON:  Well, I know – all you have to do is do math and then you can make the judgments yourself.  All you need to know that is the year 2036, you’re going to waddle up to the window and get a check for 23 percent less.  A year ago that was 2037 and 22 percent less.  So in just one year and half they’ve kicked that up.  And that’s all you need to know.  And if you can’t raise the retirement age to 68 by the year 2050 because people might be confused then we ain’t got a prayer anyway.

 

Q:  In that same debate Herman Cain said that the U.S. should follow the Chilean model, which is a personal retirement account, to fix Social Security.  Do you think that would be a good idea as well?

 

MR. SIMSPON:  U.S – (chuckles) – Chile and the United States are slightly different. 

 

MR. BOWLES:  Yeah, I – no.

 

MR. SIMPSON:  It’s just a – (inaudible) –

 

MR. BOWLES:  I can answer that in one word – no, I don’t.

 

MR. SIMPSON:  Well, I can tell you it wouldn’t fit the economy, the demographics.  That makes no sense.  I’ve heard that one for 20 years:  If we did what Chile did we’d be OK.  Forget it – it can’t possibly function.

 

MS. MACGUINEAS:  Let me just make a quick point on that, on Social Security, because I think it’s such a –

 

MR. SIMPSON:  You challenging what –

 

MS. MACGUINEAS:  No, no!  (Laughter.)  Totally agree and everything.  (Laughter.)  But I think Social Security is a great example about how the earlier you make changes to a program, the more time you have to phase them in, the more gradual they can be.  And so 10 years ago or 15 years ago when people were talking about private accounts and Social Security, there could have been a real discussion on it because there were surpluses in the program.  There aren’t cash surpluses anymore. 

We’ve now waited until the cash surpluses have disappeared.  And it makes reforming the program even more urgent.  Even though there are credits in the trust fund; those are claims on other government resources.  And I think Social Security is sort of the perfect example of why getting ahead of a problem that you know is out there as quickly as possible so you can put in changes gradually is the right way to go, rather than waiting to the last minute when you’re forced to make changes abruptly and you have fewer policy options.

So I don’t think private accounts are a credible option, because we’ve waited too long to even have that discussion, but it does make the case why we should talk about things like raising the retirement age, changing the benefit structure, looking at how taxes finance the system, as quickly as possible.

 

MR. SIMPSON:  There’s a very key thing happening here.  You use flash words – this commission – our commission never talked about privatization of Social Security, not once.  And you read about it that the Bush thing failed and so this guy – these will fail too because we’re talking about privatization – that’s a fake, that’s a shunt.  None of us have talked about privatization – it was a red hot issue, it brought down everything Bush tried to do and it will do it again.  So we don’t – we’re not into that game. 

 

MR. BOWLES:  Social Security today is about $45 billion – (background noise) – Social Security today is about – on an annual basis – about $45 billion cash-negative, and that’s before the reduction in the payroll taxes that are now being used for the stimulus.  What we tried to do was to put forward some recommendations that would make Social Security sustainably solvent for the next seventy five years so it actually would be there for your generation.  That can be done and we, obviously, recommended that it should be done.

 

Q:  You say that you’re very optimistic that this deficit commission is going to be successful and have a –

 

MR. BOWLES:  I think I said optimistic not very optimistic.  (Laughter.)

 

Q:  Last week after the first sort of organizational hearings to the committee, Senator Kyl said he would drop out if they do further cuts to defense.  I guess, what’s your response to that?  And also, you know, you – both of you – were on this committee, so what’s your initial advice or what would you do make sure some of these things go forward?

 

MR. BOWLES:  I think Senator Kyl has also said from time to time that he may not have been quoted correctly on that.  What I will say is, you know, we have an imaginary deficit in this country where the source of that deficit – that imaginary deficit – is waste, fraud and abuse, foreign aid, oil subsidies and Nancy Pelosi’s airplane – (chuckles) – you know?  So that’s, like, the imaginary deficit.

The real deficit and the real causes of our deficit are a couple of things.  First of all, we spend twice as much as any other country – developed country on health care.  And that’s true whether you look at it as a percent of GDP or on a per capita basis.  So that’s one of the big problems, is the amount we spend on health care and the growth in health care costs.

The second is that we spend more than the next 14 countries – largest countries combined on our national defense.  And that simply is not sustainable and it also causes us to – it causes kind of like a hollowing out of the country because there are not the resources available to invest in things like education and infrastructure and high-value-added research.

And the third is that we give away, you know, half of the tax income in deductions and credits.  And people wonder why we have a relatively high tax rate and yet we only net, you know, half the money that should be coming into the country.  And it’s because we have these deductions and credits.  So those are the three big causes of the deficit and those are the three big things everybody’s going to have to deal with if you’re going to solve the problem on a long-term basis.

 

MR. SIMPSON:  And I think, too, the commission – the supercommission will see what we learned about the Defense Department.  We said how many contractors do you have?  And they said, well, it’s quite a range – it’s between 1 million and 10 million. 

 

MR. BOWLES:  Small range.

 

MR. SIMPSON:  It’s just a small range.  And then Kent Conrad asked for an audit years ago as head of the budget committee and they said, we are an unauditable agency; we have no ability to audit ourselves nor can anyone else audit the Defense Department.  There’s health care plans that cost 53 billion bucks that affect 2.2 million veterans.  I’m a veteran.  I’m not interested in crucifying veterans.  But this is – you’ve got to look at it and when you look at it – bases overseas – I was overseas in Germany and you don’t need the base I was in anymore, in fact, we wrecked it.  (Laughter.) 

 

Q:  Your advice?

 

MR. BOWLES:  My advice?  Yeah, yeah –

 

MR. SIMPSON:  Oh, I’m sorry.  Advice?  Hang on tight.  (Laughter.)

 

MR. BOWLES:  Yeah.  And make sure everything is on the table.  You got to deal with all these big issues if you really are going to address the long-term problems that face the country. 

 

Q:  Hi, sir, just one quick question to follow-up.  Maya said that – she said that making bigger deficit reductions would also free up potentially more money for things like economic things that can stimulate the economy.  Do you think that investing money in things – I mean, like President Obama’s proposal to reduce the payroll taxes temporarily as well as investing in infrastructure – I’m not asking you to sign off on that particular plan – but do you think investments like that would help our economy right now and potential lower our deficit?

 

MR. BOWLES:  Yeah.  Al and I have said many times that this country, if it’s going to be competitive in a knowledge-based global economy has to invest in things like education and infrastructure and high-value-added research.  But what we have said is we have to do that in a fiscally responsible manner.  When you have limited resources, it tells you one thing:  you have to make choices. Let me give you just two examples.

I just spent six years as president of the University of North Carolina.  And one of the things I fought for the hardest was for us to do our part to improve K through 12, and to improve K through 12 you’ve got to turn out not just more teachers but better teachers.  So the first thing I looked at was, well, what’s the federal government doing in this area?  And I quickly found out that the federal government has 82 programs to improve the quality of teacher education.  Now, do we need two or three good ones?  Absolutely.  But we don’t need 82. 

We did $1.5 billion worth of annual research at the University of North Carolina paid for by the federal government, paid for by the taxpayers.  Of that $1.5 billion I can’t tell you how much of that would be described as high-value-added research, but all of it is not.  And we’re doing research today on 3,000 colleges and universities.  You know, what we have to do is we have to make choices.  There was a great Nobel scientist, his name was Ernst Rutherford.  And when Ernst Rutherford’s Nobel project was running out of money he turned to his team and said:  We’re running out of money; now, we got to start thinking.

Well, that’s what America’s got to do.  We got to start thinking; we got to make choices.  We got to prioritize our spending; we got to get a bigger bang for our buck.  And once we do that then we’ve also got to think about can we spend more and where do we get the capital to do that?  How do we pay for it?

 

MR. SIMPSON:  I like that one about start thinking.  That’s good.  Nobody else thought it was, but I did.  (Laughter.)

 

Q:  Damian Paletta with the Wall Street Journal.  Can you give us a sense – there’s only two months they have until Thanksgiving when they are supposed to make their recommendations – about the special interest lobbying on these issues.  You guys saw this when you did it.  Can you – what would your advice be to them as far as what to expect?

 

MR. SIMPSON:  Would be to throw away the copies of every paper that comes out daily because there’ll be full-page ads by every wounded duck, every sacred cow.  They’ll be – say you can’t do this to old people, can’t do this to homeowners, you can’t do this seniors, you’re breaking the bedpans in the hospices.  It’ll be outrageous.  It’s going to be savagery – I mean, savagery because when we put this out, they laughed.  They all sat around and chuckled and said, boy, these guys are goofy – came up with something here that can’t possibly work.

And now, with two months to go, they know exactly what’s happening, they’re zeroing in on all the stuff we did and the Gang of Six did and the Rivlin-Domenici and everybody out there with a brain – they have nowhere to go.  And so these guys who laughed before, these special interest groups, will gear up national advertising television, which will be savagery. 

 

MR. BOWLES:  I will tell you that Al and I had people come in one day from 9:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night.

 

MR. SIMPSON:  Oh yeah.

 

MR. BOWLES:  And we didn’t have anybody come in and say cut my budget.  Everybody said ours is the most important, we need this money.  It’s like my – they were all like my momma.  My momma said, Erskine, I’m really proud of you, you’re doing the exactly right thing; you know, you should be fiscally responsible, but don’t mess with my Medicare.  You know, that’s what everybody things.  Gosh, do this, but don’t mess with theirs.  We have to mess with everybody’s because, again, it’s got to shared sacrifice if we’re going to get there.  The problems are real; the solutions are all hard and there’s no easy way out.

 

MS. MACGUINEAS:  If there are no more questions I’m just going to –

 

MR.     :  There’s one in the back.

 

Q:  If there’s time?

 

MS. MACGUINEAS:  Yeah.

 

Q:  (Inaudible) – There’s been the thought that the group doesn’t have enough time to do the 1.5 trillion (dollars) but the indication from you guys seems to be that given the work that you’ve done and the other groups have done that they’ve got plenty of time.  Is that a fair way to (take that out there ?)?

 

MR. BOWLES:  I think you’ve got plenty of time.  And I can tell you, the more comprehensive we made it, the easier our job got, the easier it was to get to majority rather than the less – you know, trying to do just little teeny pieces of it. 

 

MR. SIMPSON:  The tougher we made our proposal, the more people came aboard.  I think that same thing can happen with this super commission. 

 

MS. MACGUINEAS:  OK.  Just to close out, I just can’t help but give a huge thanks to Erskine Bowles and Al Simpson because what they did when they came up with our fiscal commission plan was they really set the gold standard for how to actually fix the budget and for, I think, a decade before then we hadn’t been talking about real fixes and we hasn’t been talking about realistic changes.

And it has completely changed the discussion in Washington and the country.  And I never thought it would be possible that two people could hit the road and get standing ovations for budget speeches.  I have given enough budget speeches to know you don’t get – (chuckles) – standing ovations – I don’t.  So they have gone around the country and if you listen to them it’s really inspiring how much support there is outside of Washington to do this right thing. 

And since then, from their work, it led to the work the Gang of Six in the Senate.  And there were many, many colleagues in both the House and the Senate who supported what they did and came together in a bipartisan way to say let’s take these ideas and put everything on the table and put a real fix out there and get ahead of this problem, which is something we know is unsustainable and changes have to be made.

And so the purpose of releasing this letter was to bring together these voices – a very, very impressive group of people, all these former members of Congress and heads of the Treasury Department, Office of Management and Budget, people who have been there in the trenches and know exactly what’s needed – and try to lend support to the 12 men and women who are working on the new supercommittee and hopefully help them to come up with a plan. 

It’s going to be difficult either way but I think the observations of Erskine Bowles and Al Simpson that you actually can get more momentum when you put everything on the table and you put together a big deal may be the very thing that helps them.  So hopefully they will hear that so many people in the country are wishing them support and success and that we hope they’re able to go big.  Thank you.

 

MR. SIMPSON:  Thank you very much.  Yes, that was very good.  I would just say to you what we say to people in a very earthy way, and we say it, is that we’re here to talk to you, we don’t do BS and we don’t do mush.  And if you’re looking for BS and mush, just watch every congressperson that talks about cutting the deficit and telling you nothing about how to do it. 

 

MR. BOWLES:  We’ve got to get out of here, but – (laughter).

 

(Off-side conversation.)

 

(END)

 

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Sep 12, 2011
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Press conference featuring Erskine Bowles, Alan Simpson, and CRFB President Maya MacGuineas releasing a letter from over 60 former government officials and business leaders calling for the Super Committee to "go big."