Former Republican senator Alan Simpson and Clinton White House chief of staff Erksine Bowles released their latest deficit reduction plan this week. The two were appointed by President Obama to head the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010, though the commission's proposals that were largely ignored. Since then, Simpson and Bowles released a second plan that would address the United States's deficit and national debt. This latest framework would cut the nation's debt by $2.4 trillion over the next 10 years.
Bowles and Simpson propose, among other things, revamping the tax code to close loopholes and bring in $600 billion in revenue, changes to Medicare and Medicaid that would cut costs and raise premiums on some users, adjust Social Security to tie benefits to cost of living and inflation, and other budgetary measures. While the original Bowles-Simpson plan offered $3.8 trillion in spending cuts and $2.6 trillion in revenue increases, this latest incarnation shrinks the amount from revenues to $1.3 trillion for its $3.8 trillion in spending cuts.
The proposals put forth by Bowles and Simpson, who now cochair the Fix the Debt campaign, have ruffled the feathers of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Some Republicans object to any new revenues raised, even if by closing loopholes. Many Democrats have criticized the adjustments to entitlement programs, which they say put too much burden on the poor to fix the deficit. More savings should come from tax increases, Democrats say. Nevertheless, with the March 1 sequester—the government spending cuts imposed by 2011's Budget Control Act—looming, the Bowles-Simpson plan offers a way out for lawmakers who want deficit reduction without the harmful economic effects of the sequester's across-the-board cuts.
Is the Bowles-Simpson plan a good deficit reduction proposal? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Dean Baker Codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research
Alan Simpson Former Senator
Kelly Ross Deputy Policy Director at AFL-CIO
Alex Brill Research Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute