By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Two speakers give no-nonsense look at U.S. financial crisis
Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, presidentially appointed co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, gave President’s Associates guests a no-nonsense look at America’s financial crisis and the necessary actions to mitigate it Monday evening.
As authors of a bipartisan-supported plan reducing the nation’s deficits by $4 trillion over the next decade, Bowles’ and Simpson’s perspective is a widely cited reference point, encompassing both the harsh realities facing the nation and the hope that they can be overcome.
“Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson were given a thankless task, and we’re lucky to have such people in our society and in our presence tonight,” OU President David Boren said.
Speaking to a packed ballroom in the University of Oklahoma Memorial Union, Bowles and Simpson drew as many laughs with their frank humor as gasps for the grim facts and statistics, emphasizing one necessity above all others: sacrifice.
“Don’t let politicians tell you we can ‘grow’ out of this,” Bowles said. “We can’t cut our way out, and we can’t just raise taxes. There must be shared sacrifice from everyone.”
Bipartisan gridlock and poor leadership were issues raised, but Bowles’ brief address stuck to the five principal challenges to fiscal stability: health care spending, defense spending, U.S. tax code, Social Security and compound interest.
Calling the current tax code “ludicrous,” “anti-global” and “anti-competitive,” Bowles condemned back-door spending and advocated for a slimmer defense budget, saying the U.S. “can’t afford to be the world police.”
“When (the commission) sat down to look at the numbers (in 2010), we were thinking to plan for our grandchildren’s futures, but the more we looked at it, the more we realized this is for us, right now,” Bowles said. “Our country faces the most predictable economic crisis in history, and it’s also the most avoidable. Our deficit is like a cancer, killing this country from within.”
In his speech, Simpson indicted politics of the U.S. economic crisis, including interest groups and poor leadership for their contributions to the current trajectory of disaster.
“There is no cost containment in our current legislation and there never will be because, when it comes down to it, the leaders will do nothing,” Simpson said. “We’re stuck in a rut with politicians who play Fred Astaire on steroids on every issue.”
Simpson called for tort reform, cited issues with Medicare, described impotence and corruption within the AARP and agreed with Bowles that military spending is hemorrhaging money into military schools and bases that are now obsolete.
“Leaders have to take a lot of flack, and that’s what’s gotten us into this situation — leaders trying to please everyone,” Simpson said.
Overall, Bowles and Simpson maintained that unanimous action, sacrifice and accountability in leadership can and will save the U.S. from succumbing to impending fiscal disaster.
“We got a wide range of bipartisan support for our commission’s plan and we were proud of this,” Bowles said. “They supported it because they believed it was the right thing to do.”
“When we go places, we get an amazing response from people because they’re sick of getting mush and B.S. It’s sad to see people go through that, but we have to hang on, be willing to sacrifice and we’ll get through it,” Simpson said.
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