A day after the House of Representatives soundly defeated a deficit reduction plan, two longtime Washington powerbrokers say they're not giving up. Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles met with New York City Mayor Bloomberg Thursday to warn lawmakers of looming peril. Josh Robin has the story.
UNITED STATES -- "You're gonna see chaos."
Alan Simpson used to represent Wyoming in the U.S. Senate. His new job: Warning that the economy may collapse under the weight of its own debt, a cause New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg echoed Thursday.
"In the last decade, the federal government’s revenue has increased by 15 percent, one, five. The federal government's expenses have increased by 80 percent, eight, oh. We just can't keep doing this," Bloomberg said.
What Congress should instead do, they say, is what some call politically impossible: A mixture of tax hikes and spending cuts, essentially goring sacred cows on the left and right.
"Look, the problems are real and the solutions are all painful and there's no easy way out and everything has to be on the table," former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles said.
While lawmakers agree the deficit is creeping towards dangerous levels, there's been no compromise required to do much about it.
President Obama is also faulted for the starting the commission, only to distance himself after it made recommendations.
"The concern was that that would just create backlash and the concern was always whether a proposal like that could have passed the house and unfortunately, as we saw yesterday, there's a ways to go before it comes viable," said Peter Orszag, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
But coming in for the greatest criticism were special interests, like Grover Norquist, the anti-tax advocate. He's gotten hundreds of lawmakers to sign on to his no-taxes pledge. Or the AARP, whose resistance to social security sparked one of the events more memorable lines.
Simpson said, "We suggest raising the retirement age to 68 by the year 2050. And the AARP says 'how will people ever be able to prepare for that?'"
What many are not prepared for is if nothing's done.
Next December and January, Congress faces major self-imposed events: A trillion dollars in across-the-board spending cuts, plus almost $4 trillion in automatic tax hikes as the Bush era rates end. Add to that the higher inflation it may trigger.
At least that is after Election Day, perhaps freeing up officials to put aside partisanship, even briefly.