Economy & Budget

Bowles, Simpson: Deal won’t get done with people being absolutists

Bowles, Simpson: Deal won't get done with people being absolutists

The co-chairmen of the now-famous Simpson-Bowles Commission Wednesday morning praised two alternative plans to theirs to achieve deficit reduction. But, in offering praise and encouragement to the plans proposed by Republican Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Bob Corker (Tenn.), former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and Erskine Bowles also made clear that what they were looking for most in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations was compromise — coming from both Congress and the White House.

In so doing, they might well have breathed fresh life into Toomey’s compromise, which attracted support from such Democrats as Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) a year ago, and sparked fresh interest in Corker’s plan, which was unveiled last week. Corker’s plan maintains the Bush marginal tax income tax rates for all income levels and caps-deductions for the rich at $50,000.

“I just give them credit for putting out a plan,” said Simpson, who joined Democrat Bowles Wednesday at a breakfast in Washington hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “Instead of just sitting there and bitching, (Toomey and Corker) have put in (plans).”

Last year, Pennsylvania’s Toomey proposed a compromise to the congressional “supercommittee” charged with coming up with a deficit reduction plan.

Based in part on the Simpson-Bowles plan, the Toomey compromise included, as the senator told the Weekly Standard in November 2011, “a goal of getting all the tax rates lower by 20 percent–across the board (and) a combination of deductions that we would diminish, and exclusions that we would treat as taxable income. I was willing to accept that the $250 billion … revenue increase would come from the top two (tax) brackets, which was another huge concession to the Democrats.” Eventually voted down by Democrats on the supercommittee, Toomey’s proposal also included raising an additional $250 billion in revenues through measures including the government selling of land and reforming mortgage titans Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“Both plans are fine,” Bowles told Human Events, adding that “Toomey and ours differed somewhat on the revenue part. And I brought the Corker plan to the White House.”

Bowles also strongly suggested at the breakfast that the White House was willing to be flexible on whether to raise certain rates, despite the president’s insistence that he wants to raise tax rates on the top two percent of wage-earners.

Specifically addressing possible flexibility on this key point from the White House, Bowles said: “I didn’t sense it, I heard it—not only from the team, but from the president.”

But, returning to the theme he and Simpson underscored, Bowles said that a deal of deficit reduction “won’t get done with both people being absolutists. (There must be) compromise on both sides.”

Simpson, to no one’s surprise, put it in the most memorable terms: “If you’re not willing to compromise, never be in a legislative body. And never get married.”

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