Leaders of Simpson and Bowles commission reflect on missed chance to fix economy

This post was written by Hatchet reporter McKinley Kant.

Leaders of the Simpson-Bowles Commission defended their blueprint to solve the country’s federal debt crisis and criticized a growing partisan divide Friday at the Jack Morton Auditorium.

Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., spoke Friday at Jack Morton Auditorium alongside Erskine Bowles, his co-chair of the bipartisan national debt commission for a taping of the Colorado-based “Aaron Harber Show.” Shannon Brown | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles said that the U.S. needed to put aside party interests to tackle the big issues.

They pointed to economic drags like rising healthcare costs, defense spending, the tax code, social security and mounting U.S. debt, which they called one of the nation’s most predictable and most affordable problem.

The duo co-chaired the president’s 2010 fiscal reform panel, which formed two years ago to shape a bipartisan “grand bargain” of debt reduction.

Their efforts received praise from top Republicans and Democrats, but ideas like deep cuts to domestic and military spending starting in 2012 didn’t gain traction. The plan never reached a congressional vote.

“I’m really worried for you guys,” Bowles told the 60-member audience. “We were doing [the commission] not for our grandkids or kids, but for us. When politicians say we can grow our way out of it…we can’t.”

Simpson, a deficit hawk in the Senate for 18 years, said the growing bitterness between members of Congress – not a misunderstanding of issues – has pushed debt deals and deficit reduction plans to the side.

“Members of Congress get the economics. It’s the political consequences that are why they avoid it,” he said.

The four-hour event will be broadcast on the Colorado-based “The Aaron Harber Show.”

Asked by an audience member what young people can do to have an impact on the issues, Simpson urged students to demand transparency from their representatives.

“While none of you will ever be able to match the AARP, you should go to a town meeting with your elected official and ask them if they’re telling you the truth. Join an organization. Pay attention. I didn’t when I was your age.”

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