Alan Simpson is a Republican who was a Senator from Wyoming for 18 years. He's an appealingly crusty, straight-talking guy. He's the sort of conservative who now is looked upon by super-far-right Tea Party types as -- gasp! -- a moderate.
Today I enjoyed listening to a podcast of his recent interview on Fareed Zakaria's GPS program. He appeared with his fellow co-chair of what's often called the Simpson-Bowles (or Bowles-Simpson) commission, Erskine Bowles.
(Full transcript can be read on the CNN site.)
Simpson strikes me as a much more reasonable version of Ron Paul. Equally blunt, but without the craziness. Which doesn't mean that I agree with all of his deficit-cutting recommendations. I like him more than The Daily Kos does, though.
Perhaps Simpson is off the mark on reforming Social Security, a Daily Kos gripe.
Yet he and Bowles correctly realize that getting the federal budget under control, long-term, is going to require a balanced approach: some cuts to programs; some increases in taxes; some changes to how taxes are collected, a.k.a. tax reform (eliminating excessive "tax expenditures" which benefit special interests).
And when it comes to today's extremist Republican politicians, long-time G.O.P. member Simpson nails what's wrong with his political party. From the Zakaria interview:
ZAKARIA: Senator Simpson, you've seen what's been going on these last few months. The House actually voted on the Simpson-Bowles proposal and it went down decisively.
Paul Ryan, the leader of the House on fiscal issues, I suppose, said that Simpson-Bowles was the wrong way to go because there weren't enough spending cuts and there were too many tax increases.
What was your reaction? That's your party.
SIMPSON: Well, I think my party and I have different views on a lot of things. I guess I'm known as a "rhino" now, which means a Republican in name only because I guess of social views perhaps or common sense would be another one which seems to escape members of our party.
Abortion is a horrible thing, but, for heaven's sakes, a deeply intimate and personal decision and men legislators shouldn't even vote on it. Gay-lesbian issues, we're all human beings. We're all God's children. What is that?
And for heaven's sakes, you have Grover Norquist wandering the Earth in his white robes saying that if you raise taxes one penny, he'll defeat you. He can't murder you, he can't burn your house, the only thing he can do to you, as an elected official, is defeat you for reelection.
And if that means more to you than your country when we need patriots to come out in a situation when we're in extremity, you shouldn't even be in Congress.
ZAKARIA: But talk about Ryan particularly, because what I'm struck by is the Simpson-Bowles plan calls for an awful lot of spending cuts and, yet, those weren't enough.
SIMPSON: Well, Erskine can tell you we don't call for -- You can't cut spending your way out of this hole. You can't grow your way out of this hole and you can't tax your way out of this hole "Put that in your pipe and smoke it," we tell these people.
This is madness. If you want to be a purest, go somewhere on a mountain top and praise the east or something, but if you want to be in politics, you learn to compromise and you learn to compromise an issue without compromising yourself. Show me a guy who won't compromise and I'll show you a guy with rock for brains.
I will not support any tax increases until the enormous, flabbergasting inefficiency and waste of government spending is curtailed. Once that is accomplished then we can talk about tax increases.
Posted by: tucson | May 31, 2012 at 11:19 AM
tucson, problem is, a big part of government waste are special interest tax giveaways -- especially to large corporations, but also to wealthy individuals. "Tax expenditures" are just as wasteful as unnecessary direct government spending. So this is why wise tax increases are just as necessary as wise decreases in spending.
Posted by: Brian Hines | May 31, 2012 at 11:30 AM
"So this is why wise tax increases are just as necessary as wise decreases in spending."
--OK, but I want to see the wise decreases in spending and an end to corporate subsidies and giveaways first. Otherwise the taxes will just be absorbed by the black hole of waste and special interests like they always are and they will be for naught. The government needs to earn my business.
Posted by: tucson | May 31, 2012 at 12:59 PM
"I want to see the wise decreases in spending and an end to corporate subsidies and giveaways first"
And I want to see the balance restored to the revenue side first because I have zero truxt in the right (how's the budget compromise automatic reduction agreement working out?). So, instead of playing brinksmanship and insisting on absolute positions, let's compromise and do both. That's the Simpson-Bowles approach which is tough medicine for both sides.
Posted by: Ritz | June 01, 2012 at 06:39 AM
Tucson is correct again.
Ritz wants to see “balance restored on the revenue side first.” You’ve got it all backwards…you’re essentially saying that if Washington fixes the revenue molehill, you’ll then be willing to trust they’ll fix the mountain (of spending) too. Reality is, the revenue side is so close to “balance” already that it can be entirely restored (and then some) not by tax rate increases but by an uptick in economic activity alone.
DO THE MATH:
Federal Revenue peaked in 2007 at $2.568T. Federal Outlays that year were $2.729T, creating a deficit of just $0.16T.
2012 Federal Revenue is on track to be $2.469T (just 4% below the 2007 figure). 2012 Federal Outlays are expected to be $3.796T (39% above 2007).
So – relative to the peak revenue year 2007 – the binge-worthy $1.327T estimated 2012 deficit is comprised of a revenue shortfall of just $0.099T and a spending binge increase of $1.228T.
In other words, Ritz, to “restore balance” what’s really needed is an 8% increase in tax revenue (not RATES… REVENUE!) and a 92% decrease in binge spending.
Republicans get accused of not wanting to compromise…but the math explains why they’re correct to say we don’t have a revenue problem we have a spending problem. Dollar for dollar tax increases and spending cuts (the standard Democratic ‘reasonable compromise’) don’t create balance – they maintain the current imbalance.
Posted by: DJ | June 01, 2012 at 11:21 AM