MY VIEW: Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson

We are now another week closer to a possible government showdown, and still no viable solution has emerged. But while a deal may have not come together yet, Fiscal Commission co-chairs and CRFB board members Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson still see an opening for a comprehensive budget deal.

In today's Christian Science Monitor, Bowles and Simpson write that despite the rhetoric, the two sides were very close to a deal in the past, which could form a basis for a compromise:

Budget talk in Washington is again dominated by nonnegotiable demands and a potential government shutdown – or even an unprecedented default on US debt in October. Despite the heated rhetoric, we believe that a bipartisan agreement is still possible on a meaningful budget deal that puts America on the path to fiscal responsibility.

We believed this in 2010, when we co-chaired a bipartisan national commission to fix the debt, and we still believe it. The country simply can’t afford to keep lurching from one fiscal crisis to the next. True, some fiscal progress has been made, but the underlying problem remains: In just a decade, the debt will be equal to 77 percent of our economy – draining resources to pay interest on the debt, and negatively affecting American jobs, consumer credit, and the country’s competitiveness.

Still, we’re hopeful about a fiscal deal, in part because of our experience in revising a deficit-reduction plan based on last winter’s negotiations between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. In the process of splicing that plan together, it became clear to us that the two sides had been quite close to reaching an agreement and that the remaining policy differences could be bridged if both sides were willing to go a little further and come to a principled compromise without compromising their principles.

If lawmakers are looking for a model, they have to go no further that the Bipartisan Path Forward, which attempted to build on the fiscal cliff negotiations and provide a roadmap for a more ambitious deal:

Our revised plan, The Bipartisan Path Forward, would go further than many Democrats have been willing in reforming costly entitlement programs that are driving long-term debt, particularly health care. It would, for instance, move away from Medicare’s fee-for-service delivery system and gradually increase the eligibility age. Our plan would also require Republicans to accept more revenues beyond the expiration of the 2001 upper-income tax cuts agreed to in January.

Our plan would implement entitlement reform in a way that provides important protections for the most vulnerable. And it would raise revenue through tax reform that repeals or reforms various deductions, exclusions, and credits; lowers rates; and ultimately reduces the deficit. Both sides would have to go beyond their political comfort zones to reach a real budget deal. But the end result would put the debt on a downward trajectory for the long term.

Bowles and Simpson have seen many encouraging signs in recent months such as the President offering the chained CPI as part of his budget, a growing number of Republicans indicating that they would be willing to support a plan with additional revenues if it included entitlement reform, and the proposal from Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to use a "blank slate" approach for tax reform. If lawmakers are willing to take the courageous stand, there is are many opportunities in the next few months. Write Simpson and Bowles:

It is going to take political courage on both sides to come together on fiscal common ground. The problem is real, the solutions are painful, and there is no easy way out. But there is room for a solution. We must find it for the sake of our grandchildren, ourselves, and our country.

Click here to read the full op-ed.

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