Tales from the Trail

Is deficit debate a new political dawn?

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.

Washington Extra – A snowball’s chance?

American voters made their feelings very clear last week. U.S. government borrowing is too high and needs to be reduced. How sad, then, that the presidential commission tasked with coming up with a credible plan to cut the deficit is already being dismissed as a non-event.erskine

“This is the most predictable economic crisis we have ever faced,” Erskine Bowles rightly said today as he unveiled his joint proposals with co-chair Alan Simpson.

What is lacking, though, is not a realization of this fact, but the political will and bipartisanship to find a solution. Already, some members of their own commission have expressed skepticism about the plan or dismissed it entirely, while the wider audience in Congress is hardly rushing to embrace the ideas.

Simpson gets delivery from NOW

High drama at President Barack Obama’s deficit commission meeting.

Members of the bipartisan panel were about to settle in at the Senate Budget CommitUSA/tee hearing room to discuss the weighty issues of performance objectives and the merit of one-year vs. two-year budgeting, when the unscheduled happened.

National Organization of Women President Terry O’Neill swooped in with a delivery and proceeded to lecture commission Republican co-chairman Alan Simpson.

“Stop using the deficit as an excuse to cut Social Security,” she said. “The real message we have is don’t throw people out of the middle class by undermining Social Security.”

Tit for tat

Deficit commission co-chair Alan Simpson has apologized for remarks to a women’s group that compared Social Security to a “milk cow with 310 million tits.”

ITALYBut that is not good enough for the National Organization for Women (NOW),  which has launched a “Tits for an Ass” campaign to toss the former Republican senator off the panel that was created by President Barack Obama to recommend ways to cut the $1.4 trillion deficit.

NOW says that for every $5 donation to the group, it will deliver a baby-bottle nipple to the White House to pressure the administration into dumping Simpson who has made similar colorful remarks about the retirement program in the past.

Washington Extra – Foot in mouth

alan_simpsonSuggestion of the day. Encourage top officials to undertake some basic training in what to say and write in public. Specifically, try and avoid insulting and tactless remarks in print, on camera, in public or in front of journalists.

Alan Simpson, the Republican co-chairman of the president’s deficit commission, has a reputation for blunt speaking, but obviously was not paying much attention when Gen. Stanley McChrystal lost his job earlier this year. Simpson has already apologized for his email, to the executive director of the Older Women’s League, in which he compared the handing out of government retirement benefits to “milking a cow with 310 million tits.”

“When I make a mistake,” Simpson said, “it’s a doozy.” Which at least got me consulting the online dictionary. Nevertheless, there have already been calls for him to fall on his sword.

Social Security and milking cows

An email by deficit commission co-chair Alan Simpson saying the Social Security retirement program has reached a point “where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits” is prompting calls for his resignation.

Ashley Carson, executive director of OWL which calls itself the voice of midlife and older women, said the email sent to her by Simpson was “insulting.” Other comments about “greedy geezers” by the former Republican senator fail to recognize that many older women rely on less than $12,000 a year in Social Security benefits, she said.ECONOMY/JOBS

“We’re demanding for Mr. Simpson to step down as co-chair,” Carson said, adding that if he won’t go voluntarily, then President Barack Obama, who created the commission, should ask him to leave.

Simpson: Fix the deficit or your grandkids will pick grit with the chickens

Newly minted Republican deficit commissioner Alan Simpson has a message for Americans: if you don’t want your grandkids picking grit with the chickens, better ignore soundbite politics and get lawmakers to find real solutions to the deficit.

President Barack Obama Thursday named Simpson, a former Wyoming senator, and Erskine Bowles, the head of the University of North Carolina, to lead a bipartisan panel searching for ways to cut the deficit.

OBAMA/Obama called Simpson “a flinty Wyoming truth-teller.”

The former lawmaker quickly embarked on some truth-telling.

Appearing with Bowles on “PBS NewsHour,” Simpson was asked about Republicans who believed that tax cuts were needed now, even if they raised the deficit in the short term.