The tab for simply discussing America’s debt: $500,000

Jon Ward Contributor
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In Washington, talk isn’t cheap: The men and women who will sit in rooms for the next eight months to debate how to rescue the U.S. from a looming fiscal crisis won’t do so for free.

Money will be spent to figure out what money won’t be spent, either by you (higher taxes) or by the government (reduced spending of, again, the money you gave them).

The tab? About $500,000. That’s according to Bruce Reed, the executive director of President Obama’s fiscal commission, which Obama created by executive order in February and which held its first meeting Tuesday.

Since Congress has yet to pass a budget — and is in fact a long way from it — the White House moved the money out of what is known as the “unanticipated needs fund,” Reed said.

Former Sen. Alan Simpson, a co-chairman of the commission, said he’s not getting much in the way of compensation.

“I get a per diem at the hotel,” he said. “I can’t wad my butt in the airplane because I’m as tall as you are and I have a new knee, so I go first class and I get a coach reimbursement.”

Simpson, a Republican from Wyoming, said that as a result of the flight reimbursement arrangement, “I’m out about five grand now.”

“Probably be broke when I finish my work on this marvelous thing. So it ain’t really the cush job of all time,” he said.

Reed, who is taking time off from his regular job as chief executive of the Democratic Leadership Council to work for the commission, said that he and a few staffers are being paid salaries.

Reed listed three staffers by name Tuesday and said Wednesday that they will be enlisting a number of other staff in unpaid positions. Besides that, the half million is being spent on travel and food expenses.

Reed did not answer questions about what kind of public education efforts the commission will engage in, though that was a common theme of Tuesdays’ meeting.

Simpson also rejected a rumor shared with The Daily Caller that the weekly working groups — where the 18 commission members will be broken into three groups to hash out the details of their report due in December — will be conducted by teleconference.

“It may be that I can’t get back every week, or [co-chairman] Erskine [Bowles], but these working groups will all be face-to-face,” Simpson said.

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