The Corner

The Little Deficit Commission That Could

On the homepage, I examine the prospects for a comeback by the bipartisan deficit commission led by former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former senator Alan Simpson (R., Wyo.) — despite President Obama’s best efforts to ignore its bold recommendations to cut spending and reform the tax code and entitlement programs in order to reduce the federal deficit by $4 trillion over ten years:

[T]he duo of Bowles and Simpson has returned to the political scene, determined to “keep the heat” on politicians to support meaningful action to reduce the deficit. On March 8, they launched their “Moment of Truth Project,” borrowing from the title of their commission’s final report, in an effort to build on the political momentum gathering in Congress and ultimately achieve a meaningful compromise. The two testified before the budget committees of both chambers, urging lawmakers to act in order to avoid “the most predictable economic crisis in history.”

“A lot of us sitting in this room didn’t see this last crisis as it came upon us, but this one is really easy to see,” Bowles told senators at the hearing. “This debt and these deficits that we are incurring on an annual basis are like a cancer, and they are truly going to destroy this country from within unless we have the common sense to do something about it.” Bowles has expressed hope that in addition to the “Gang of Six,” as many as 40 senators would ultimately support some kind of broad deficit-reduction package — well short of the necessary 60, but perhaps enough to convince some holdouts to join the effort.

Read the whole thing here. And while we’re on the subject of debt reduction, Politico has an op-ed co-authored by ten former chairs of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, from both sides of the political spectrum, urging President Obama and members of Congress to take immediate action to address the long-term budget deficit, using the Bowles-Simpson report as a starting point:

There are many issues on which we don’t agree. Yet we find ourselves in remarkable unanimity about the long-run federal budget deficit: It is a severe threat that calls for serious and prompt attention.

While the actual deficit is likely to shrink over the next few years as the economy continues to recover, the aging of the baby-boom generation and rapidly rising health care costs are likely to create a large and growing gap between spending and revenues. These deficits will take a toll on private investment and economic growth. At some point, bond markets are likely to turn on the United States — leading to a crisis that could dwarf 2008. [emphasis added]


We know the measures to deal with the long-run deficit are politically difficult. The only way to accomplish them is for members of both parties to accept the political risks together. That is what the Republicans and Democrats on the commission who voted for the bipartisan proposal did.

We urge Congress and the president to do the same.

In the Senate, a “gang” of Republicans and Democrats is working to do just that. In the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) is preparing to unveil a politically courageous budget proposal (which House Democrats are already attacking). And the president — the one person who nearly all agree must weigh in before any meaningful action can go forward to avoid “the most predictable economic crisis in history,” one that “could dwarf 2008″ — what’s he up to? Dithering and more dithering.

Andrew Stiles — Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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