Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, Washington, column: Debt brings America to moment of truth
By Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles WASHINGTON -- Every American knows we face a moment of truth. America cannot be great if we go broke. Without regard to party, we have a patriotic duty to keep the promise of America to give our children and gra...
By Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles
WASHINGTON -- Every American knows we face a moment of truth. America cannot be great if we go broke. Without regard to party, we have a patriotic duty to keep the promise of America to give our children and grandchildren a better life.
We must have a plan to get this crushing debt burden off our backs.
The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has completed its plan, but the real work has just begun. We believe the commission's framework will have an impact on how lawmakers think about the federal debt crisis in our country and the message from our work is clear: The era of debt denial is over.
The bipartisan vote on the commission's proposal sends an important message. Eleven of the 18 Commission members -- five Democrats, five Republicans and one Independent -- supported the plan. Leaders such as Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Judd Gregg, R-N.H., made this possible.
Their belief in looking past petty politics has proven that Democrats and Republicans can come together to solve this problem.
Ever since the economic downturn, families across the country have huddled around kitchen tables, making tough choices about what they hold most dear and what they can learn to live without. They expect and deserve their leaders to do the same.
Our package brings down the deficit and debt, cuts wasteful spending, reforms the tax code by broadening the base and lowering rates, secures the solvency of Social Security for the next 75 years and includes critical safeguards to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
Over the course of our deliberations, the urgency of our mission has become all the more apparent. The contagion of debt that began in Greece and now sweeps through Europe shows us clearly that no economy will be immune.
If the U.S. does not put its house in order, the reckoning will be swift and the devastation severe.
The president and the leaders of both parties in both chambers of Congress asked us to address the nation's fiscal challenges in this decade and beyond. We have tried to offer an aggressive, fair, balanced and bipartisan proposal that assuredly is as serious as the problems we face.
None of us likes every element of our plan we proposed, but each of us had to tolerate provisions we opposed in order to reach a principled compromise. We were willing to put our differences aside to forge a plan because our nation certainly will be lost without one.
We offer our plan as the starting point for a serious national conversation in which every citizen has an interest and all should have a say. The American people are counting on us to put politics aside, pull together not pull apart and agree on a plan to live within our means and make America strong for the long haul.
Our leaders have a responsibility to level with Americans about the choices we face and to enlist the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the American people in rising to the challenge.
We believe that neither party can fix this problem on its own. Both parties have a responsibility to do their part. The American people are far ahead of the political system in recognizing that now is the time to act. We believe that far from penalizing their leaders for making the tough choices, Americans will punish politicians for backing down -- and well they should.
We worked with Conrad to lay the groundwork for a solution. Now it's up to the president and Congress to act.
Former Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff, are the co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.