Ripon Forum Features Simpson-Bowles Plan

Aug 20, 2012 | Budgets & Projections

Is the Simpson-Bowles plan where the budget debate will eventually end up? The latest edition of the Ripon Forum seems to think so, making the plan the main focus. The Forum explores how Simpson-Bowles or something similar may be the only viable path to get something substantive done on the budget.

One article, written by editor Lou Zickar, states the following about the plan:

Amazingly, 18 months later, the Simpson-Bowles plan has been resurrected, and has become something of a symbol – a symbol not only of the tough choices that need to be made to get the Nation’s fiscal house in order, but of what can be accomplished when Republicans and Democrats lay down their political arms and come together for the common good. It is also, as Simpson puts it, “the only game in town.” Tom Coburn supports it. Nancy Pelosi supports it. If he wins a second term, I predict President Obama, electorally liberated and politically unencumbered, will support it, too.

A second article is an interview with Alan Simpson, touching on both the politics and the policy of the plan. In the interview, Simpson explains that the final deficit reduction plan would probably look very similar to Simpson-Bowles:

This baby is the only game in town. There’s nowhere else to go. You can go to us or parts of Domenici-Rivlin or the Gang of Six plan or the work of the Super Committee and Obama-Boehner. But the framework has got to be along the lines of what Erskine and I and nine other brave souls recommended in 2010 – cuts to wasteful spending in defense and non-defense, health care cost controls, Social Security solvency measures, and tax reform that lowers rates but gets more revenues.  

The full interview is a great read, spanning subjects such as the plan's recommendations on taxes and Social Security and the role of humor in politics.

A third article, written by Moment of Truth Project executive director Ed Lorenzen, discusses lessons learned from the time he spent serving on the Fiscal Commission. One important lesson, which we have said before, is that "going big" enabled the plan to get broad bipartisan support from people both on and outside the Commission.

One of the biggest lessons from the experience of the Commission is that a proposal to deal with the debt needs to be big and comprehensive in order to succeed politically. When Simpson and Bowles put forward their co-chairmen’s proposal to the rest of the commission, Washington insiders were shocked that the plan so aggressively exceeded our mandate. They were sure that the proposal would need to be scaled back to get a majority vote. Indeed, even among commission staff we had started thinking about ways the plan could be softened to get more support.

It turned out that the opposite was true. Commission members responded favorably to the plan because it was bold, and were in near unanimous agreement that the plan should not be watered down. The more comprehensive and larger we made the plan, the easier our job became. The tougher our proposal, the more people came aboard.

The Ripon Forum documents quite well how and why the Simpson-Bowles framework continues to be the most viable bipartisan deficit reduction plan out there. As Lorenzen states at the end of his piece:

The Simpson-Bowles commission demonstrated how it can be done both substantively and politically. Now it is up to the President and Congress to provide leadership to act.

Read the entire Ripon Forum edition here.