Where are Simpson and Bowles when we need them?

Where, you may be asking, are those intrepid truth-tellers — former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and former Clinton administration chief of staff Erskine Bowles — when we need them?

The answer is they’re still around, and they’re still trying to spread their message, and no one is listening to them still.

Here’s an ad they have produced for a group called “Campaign to Fix the Debt.”

Just to recap, President Obama appointed these two to come up with a realistic solution to the nation’s long-term debt problem back in 2011. They performed that duty admirably, assembling a bipartisan committee and coming up with a plan that included a little bit of what both sides want and don’t want — in other words, a compromise.

Their committee didn’t unanimously support the plan, but that’s because some of them were active politicians who didn’t want to be seen as supporting compromise.

Simpson-Bowles wanted to raise the Social Security retirement age to 69 and gradually reduce its benefits for younger people. They wanted to cut defense, cut farm subsidies and increase the federal gasoline tax by 15 cents a gallon.

On the income tax side, they wanted to cut marginal rates considerably (this means less out-of-pocket money from you on April 15). But they also would have gotten rid of a lot of tax deductions, such what you can claim for interest paid on mortgages or for charitable giving. For every $1 raised in new taxes through the loss of these deductions, their plan would have cut $2 to $3.

Their plan was so good the president immediately ignored it and no one in the House or Senate championed it. Instead, everyone retreated to their WWI-vintage trenches and kept lobbing bombs at each other.

Congress may well reach a deal this week. Early reports say the plan might push the next debt ceiling crisis back until after Christmas.

Really? That’s the best we can do? Does the nation have to live crisis to crisis?

I’ve never said Simpson-Bowles was a perfect solution. But any real solution to long-term debt has to look something like what they have recommended.

If the current “shutdown” were about pushing a plan similar to this, I would be all for it. What we have now, though, is each side ramming its pure ideology headlong into the other, nibbling the edges of Obamacare and ignoring the kinds of grand solutions that would require real political courage.

About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

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