What would you think of a construction crew who showed up to a job site on the first day and said, “We’re here to put on the roof!"? You’d obviously wonder if they knew what they were doing. Yet this analogy is appropriate, unfortunately, for much of what goes on in Washington D.C. A perfect example is the deficit reduction plan developed by former Senator Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
Known as the Simpson-Bowles Budget Plan – or more appropriately, the recommendations of the National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform – it is a bipartisan blueprint meant to stabilize, and then reduce, the national debt. With the President and Congress delaying decisions on the portion of the fiscal cliff that had to do with budget cuts until next month, we will probably be hearing a lot about this flawed plan in the coming weeks.
I mean no disrespect to Mr. Simpson or Mr. Bowles, but the fact of the matter is there are a couple of major problems with their budget plan.
The first is that it is simply a budget plan and nothing more. A mere fiscal plan might be appropriate if the economy were in good working order and our only problem was a budget deficit, but this simply isn’t the case. Trying to formulate a plan to solve our financial problems without first fixing the economy (or doing both at the same time) is like trying to put the roof on a building that has no foundation or walls.
Moreover, the United States has serious energy, environmental and social problems as well. While these issues might not be completely rectified by a comprehensive economic plan, they should at least be given consideration in the process of fixing both our economic and fiscal problems. The budget plan being pushed by these gentleman's plan does nothing of the sort.
This brings us to the second problem with the Simpson-Bowles plan. In order to seem non-partisan and unbiased, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles took great pains to make sure they cut from almost every part of the budget. As former Senator Simpson likes to say, “We slaughtered every sacred cow in the field.”
While scrutinizing every part of the federal budget is a worthy approach and a necessary task, the fact of the matter is that some parts of the budget have already been cut more than is prudent. With our country’s infrastructure and educational systems desperately in need of additional investment, cutting them simply to prove impartiality skirts the important debate we should be having about various budget items.
Because Democrats and Republicans are constantly tweaking tax and spending policies to revive the economy, it would be better to establish a solid economic foundation before we ever attempt to solve our budget problems. Yet the National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform plan does nothing to provide this economic base.
Because of that, even if the Simpson-Bowles plan manages to become acceptable to both sides, and is implemented without amendment, it is ultimately destined to fail.
Aaron Swisher is the author of “Resuscitating America – An Independent Voter’s Guide to Restoring the American Dream."