MY VIEW: Erskine Bowles November 2012

As the President and leaders of Congress begin to look for a compromise to replace the fiscal cliff, the next step is to decide what a compromise would look like. Fiscal Commisson co-chair and Fix the Debt co-founder Erskine Bowles writes that lawmakers do not have to reinvent the wheel to find models for bipartisian alternatives:

What does that alternative look like? We already have the blueprints.

It’s the type of bipartisan package toward which the fiscal commission I co-chaired with former senator Alan Simpson, the Domenici-Rivlin group, the Senate’s “Gang of Six” and the Obama-Boehner negotiations all worked. It’s a package large enough to put the debt on a clear downward path, relative to the economy, and designed well enough to promote, rather than disrupt, economic growth. It’s a package that includes real spending cuts and structural entitlement reforms to make Social Security solvent while slowing the growth of federal health spending while protecting vulnerable populations. And it’s a package that institutes fundamental tax reform that simplifies the code and encourages economic growth by cutting spending in the tax code to reduce rates and generate additional revenue for deficit reduction.

Most important, it’s a package that can get bipartisan agreement. I was very encouraged by House Speaker John Boehner’s remarks Wednesday indicating his willingness to support increased revenue from tax reform if it were accompanied by meaningful entitlement reform. Based on my conversations with President Obama, I am confident that he is willing to do his part to put our fiscal house in order and would support a comprehensive plan based on the general framework the fiscal commission put forward. While there will undoubtedly be many honest disagreements about the specific elements of a plan, I believe that both leaders are willing to make the type of principled compromise necessary to reach an agreement.

Though we won’t be able to enact the entire plan in the few legislative weeks before year’s end, policymakers could agree in the lame-duck session on the basic framework of the deal. Congress could enact a “down payment” of savings from spending and revenue policies, along with a process for achieving the remaining savings by July 4, with enforcement mechanisms to ensure that the promised savings are achieved. Designed appropriately, such a package would be credible enough to allow for a temporary delay of the scheduled sequestration policies and extension of expiring tax cuts.

We know what needs to be enacted in the lame duck, and many people from across the country have said as much.

I am confident that the president and Congress can agree to such a plan. Nearly three years’ worth of work has gone into developing the policies and raising awareness on the need for a comprehensive plan. Members of both parties and both houses understand this. So do concerned citizens across the country — 300,000 of whom have signed a petition at, demanding that Washington act.

The only ingredient missing is political will. Betting the country in the hopes of generating that political will is not the answer. Coming together for the greater good is.

The full piece can be found here.

"My Views" are works published by members of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, but they do not necessarily reflect the views of all members of the committee.