Simpson-Bowles: `Truly Missed Opportunity to Do Something Big’

Photograph by Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden leave the podium after Obama made a statement regarding the passage of the fiscal cliff bill in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Jan. 1, 2013.

The tax deal approved in a bipartisan vote of the Senate and House and ready for President Barack Obama’s signature is a far cry from any “grand bargain” on the federal debt.

It’s a long way from what Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, co-chairmen of the president’s deficit commission, recommended as a formula for addressing the annual deficit now in excess of $1 trillion and the accrued federal debt of more than $16 trillion.

It is, they say “truly a missed opportunity.”

Simpson, a retired Republican senator from Wyoming, and Bowles, a chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton, never got the super-majority vote of the presidential commission needed to endorse their proposed $4 trillion mix of spending cuts and tax increases in a ratio of about three-to-one. The White House, too, left the co-chairmen’s report on the table.

They have gone on to lead an organization called “Campaign to Fix the Debt.”

This is what they have to say, today, about the deal struck by Congress on New Year’s Day:

“The deal approved yesterday is truly a missed opportunity to do something big to reduce our long term fiscal problems, but it is a small step forward in our efforts to reduce the federal deficit. It follows on the $1 trillion reduction in spending that was done in last year’s Budget Control Act,” the two said in a joint statement released by the campaign.

“While both steps advance the efforts to put our fiscal house in order, neither one nor the combination of the two come close to solving our Nation’s debt and deficit problems. Our leaders must now have the courage to reform our tax code and entitlement programs such that we stabilize our debt and put it on a downward path as a percent of the economy.”

“Washington missed this magic moment to do something big to reduce the deficit, reform our tax code, and fix our entitlement programs. We have all known for over a year that this fiscal cliff was coming. In fact Washington politicians set it up to force themselves to seriously deal with our Nation’s long term fiscal problems. Yet even after taking the Country to the brink of economic disaster, Washington still could not forge a common sense bipartisan consensus on a plan that stabilizes the debt.”

“It is now more critical than ever that policymakers return to negotiations that will build on the terms of this agreement and the spending cuts in the Budget Control Act. These future negotiations will need to make the far more difficult reforms that bring spending further under control, make our entitlement programs sustainable and solvent, and reform our tax code to both promote growth and produce revenue. We take some encouragement from the statements by the President and leaders in Congress that they recognize more work needs to be done. In order to reach an agreement, it will be absolutely necessary for both sides to move beyond their comfort zone and reach a principled agreement on a comprehensive plan which puts the debt on a clear downward path relative to the economy.”

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