The Senate’s avowed socialist is urging his colleagues to shut up about the Simpson-Bowles plan as a common-sense base of compromise for fiscal cliff negotiations.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that the plan from President Obama’s bipartisan deficit reduction commission “will cause major economic pain to virtually every American while lowering tax rates for millionaires, billionaires and large corporations.”
Obama himself hasn’t embraced the recommendations of President Clinton’s chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), but lawmakers have generally touted the mix of spending cuts and revenue raising as the best starting point for a deal. Bowles met today with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and business leaders.
“I believe the probability is that we’re going over the cliff, and I think that would be horrible. I think it would be devastating to the economy,” Bowles said at a breakfast in Washington this morning, putting the odds of cliff-plunging at one in three.
In his letter circulated to Democrats, Sanders highlighted in bold, large font Bowles compliments of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget plan as “a sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget.” He also nitpicked that Bowles has been a board member at Morgan Stanley since 2005 “and made a fortune as a Wall Street investment banker as many of you know.”
Sanders accused Simpson of making “rude, inaccurate, and derogatory statements” about Social Security — and included Simpson’s famous 2010 quote about the entitlement program being “like a milk cow with 310 million tits.”
“You may also be unaware that Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson endorsed Congressman Charles Bass (R-N.H.) against progressive Democrat Ann McClane Kuster,” he continued, noting that the congressman voted for Ryan’s budget. Bass lost re-election.
Sanders outlined the points in Simpson-Bowles that he believes Democrats should object to, including using a new formula to determine cost-of-living increases for current retirees and VA beneficiaries, raising the retirement age to 69, raising student loan interest rates, and increasing premiums for Medicare and Medicaid.
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said leadership had a “constructive conversation” with Bowles, who is trying to act as an intermediary between Republicans and the White House.
“Everyone in the room is committed to reaching an agreement that will prevent us from going over the cliff by spurring economic growth and reducing the debt burden on hard-working Americans,” McCarthy said. “If the president truly wants a ‘balanced approach,’ the White House must outline cuts and reforms to address Washington’s out-of-control federal spending.”