The leaders of President Obama’s bipartisan deficit reduction commission fear that, in former Sen. Alan Simpson’s (R-Wyo.) words, both Democratic and Republican leaders are talking like they’re “betting your country” in fiscal cliff negotiations.
Simpson notes that party leaders and the administration have made statements about whether going off the cliff would help their party more. “There’s something terribly bizarre and juvenile about that to think your party comes ahead of your country. I don’t go for that at all,” he said.
The other half of the debt duo, former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation with Simpson, said “it would be disastrous for the country” to go over that cliff.
“About two million people would lose their jobs. Unemployment would go to 9 percent,” Bowles said, warning that no deal would send the country back into recession. “…Moody’s and Fitch have said that they would lower our credit rating. That would cause our interest rate to go up. I don’t think the stock market has factored this in. Everybody’s taxes would go up.”
“The bizarre thing, not touching the entitlements. The entitlements are the engine on the train driving us to the cliff. They were on automatic pilot. Health care, it doesn’t matter what you call it, is on automatic pilot. And it’s going to squeeze out all the discretionary budget — defense, R&D research, all the things you love,” Simpson said.
Bowles said he’s slightly encouraged by “Kabuki theater” of negotiations evolving into a tango. “And, you know, any time you have two guys in there tangoing you have a chance to get it done,” he said.
“You look at the people on the periphery, what they’re saying. You have Dick Durbin, who is very close to the president, saying, gosh, you know, that he can live with means testing Medicare. He said he doesn’t like it, but he can live with it. You know, that’s high on the list of things that Leader McConnell has said he’s got to have to have a deal,” Bowles said. “And even Nancy Pelosi has said, look, this is not about rates, it’s about revenue. It’s about getting the money we need in order to reduce these deficits. So you’ve got to have spending cuts and you’ve got to have some revenue to get this done.”
Simpson defended his video urging young Americans to “stop Instagramming your breakfast and tweeting your first world problem and getting on YouTube so you can see Gangnam Style and start using those precious social media skills to sign people up on this baby” — aka the Simpson-Bowles plan.
“I said to those young kids get off your can, and they invented the phrase — they’re tired of seeing the can kicked down the road because when they kick the can down the road they’re the ones who are going to get it kicked right in the fanny,” Simpson said. “So, Erskine and I tried to help them. And if this has helped them to energize themselves and get volunteers and take on the sob sisters that say that we’re trying to is destroy all the old people in America, get serious. And if humor will do that, I think that’s great. Nobody has any humor in Washington. There ain’t none left.”