Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles came to NAILBA 32 in Dallas on Saturday to make people mad, hoping it will lead to activism on the part of NAILBA members.
Simpson and Bowles, who were appointed by President Obama in 2010 to co-chair the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and co-founders of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, receive about a dozen speaking invitations per day, according to Bowles. Because they have to be selective about where they choose to speak, they opt for forums where they think the audience can make a difference. NAILBA made the cut, and it seems fair to say that members were glad they had the opportunity to get mad after hearing the remarks from this famous bipartisan team.
Simpson and Bowles advised the “mad” NAILBA audience to visit their representatives and ask them about their views on deficit reduction. If they don’t have good answers or say they can fix it without making cuts to entitlements, don’t support them (particularly financially) as they look to get re-elected.
Their well-publicized plan, intended to identify policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run, purported to reduce the federal deficit by nearly $4 trillion and reduce the debt 60 percent by 2023, 40 percent by 2035 and entirely by 2035. It reformed Social Security and the tax code, and included health-care savings and an illustrative savings of $200 billion of discretionary cuts. It called for roughly $2 in spending cuts to $1 in revenue increases.
The final plan, released in December 2010, was able to garner bipartisan support from 11 Democrats and Republicans on the 18-member commission, but fell shy of the 14 needed to guarantee House and Senate floor votes. Bowles said that when they brought the plan back to President Obama and he walked away from it, saying he would use it as “framework” for discussions with House Speaker John Boehner, Bowles and Simpson were surprised and angry.