WASHINGTON — If President Barack Obama does not deal with entitlement spending in a meaningful way in the next four years, he will not leave behind a successful legacy, Alan Simpson, former GOP senator of Wyoming said Tuesday at a breakfast event put on by Politico at the Newseum.
“If he can’t cut the mustard with solvency of Social Security under honest appraisals of the trustees and he can’t get a handle on an automatic pilot rig of health care, he will have a failed presidency,” Simpson said.
Mike Allen, Politico chief White House correspondent, interviewed Simpson and Erskine Bowles, a former chief of staff to Bill Clinton and one of the leaders of President Obama’s debt commission, Tuesday morning.
Simpson aligned a failed presidency with a failure to reduce the deficit, as the pair discussed their new debt reduction plan, released to bridge the divide between the White House and House Republicans’ debt reduction proposals.
Their plan proposed steps to produce a $2.4 trillion deficit reduction, as opposed to the White House’s goal of a $1.5 trillion reduction and House Republicans’ desire for $4 trillion in cuts.
Four protesters consecutively interrupted the discussion as it started, asking Simpson and Bowles to stop cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and to pay their “fair share of taxes.”
Newseum security and staff escorted out the four different protesters, and Bowles responded by saying their new proposal would be sensitive to the poor.
“We don’t want to do anything that hurts the truly disadvantaged,” Bowles said. “There were no cuts in SSI or food stamps or unemployment compensations.”
Although “sensitive” to the poor, the Bowles-Simpson plan would cut $600 billion from Medicaid and Medicare as well as $600 billion in new tax revenue. It would make cuts to defense, non-defense and mandatory spending programs.
The plan would cut $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending and would make cuts to the cost-of-living increases for Social Security and other retirement programs, according to the Bowles-Simpson plan, officially called “A Bipartisan Path Toward Securing America’s Future.”
The White House will only support $400 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts and the House GOP said revenue cuts would not be discussed, Politico reported.
Despite the release of the plan, Bowles is not optimistic about a grand bargain. Both sides will have to be pushed out of their comfort zone to come to a bipartisan agreement, he said.
Discussing the sequester, Bowles, again, called it “stupid, stupid, stupid,” but claimed it could make people angry enough that Congress will put partisans aside and “do something smart.”
The fiscal house must be put in order, Bowles said. “We need to do it for us, all of us. … We can’t be the first generation to leave the country worse than we found it.”