Tales from the Trail

Is deficit debate a new political dawn?

November 19, 2010

RTR2GF2D_Comp1-150x150RTR2GF2D_Comp-150x150Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles think it may be a new day in American politics, one where politicans who hike taxes and alter Social Security stay in office.

Simpson, a former Republican senator, tells MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he sees evidence of change whenever he strolls through an airport: “I can tell you, we used to get lots of signals. I get more thumbs up now than other digits.”

The pair, co-chairs of President Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, have proposed cutting the U.S. budget deficit by reducing defense spending, eliminating tax breaks, hiking the gasoline tax and altering Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

HOUSE/Those kinds of measures have been a presciption for political suicide up to now, although the recommendations call for lower tax rates overall.

But with voters agonizing over joblessness, the deficit and growing economic powers like China, Simpson and Bowles believe the public wants to hear straight talk about the country’s problems and the steps needed to set things straight.

“Congress people used to believe if they came up here they’d get punished for making tough decisions. I think it’s just the opposite today,” Bowles says. “They will be severely penalized if they take a walk and don’t make these tough decisions and don’t get real.”

Simpson warns specifically against a current argument that says you can eliminate the deficit by banning earmarks, attacking waste, fraud and abuse, and scaling back foreign assistance.

“Don’t listen to anybody who gives you that,” he advises. “Just babble at them.”

IRAQ USABut Simpson reserves his sharpest criticism for conservative Grover Norquist, whose interest group Americans for Tax Reform has lambasted their recommendations as a sellout for taxpayers that would add almost $1 trillion in new taxes.

“I think Grover Norquist will be irrelevant in a year, because if he’s calling this a tax increase, he’s in Disneyland,” Simpson tells MSNBC.

Photo Credits: Reutes/Larry Downing (Simpson) (Bowles) (U.S. Capitol); Reuters/ (Grover Norquist)

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