Vol. 46, No. 3

In this Edition

With the 2012 election less than 100 days away, perhaps it’s a good time to make another prediction — if Barack Obama wins a second term as President, one of the first things he’s going to do is call Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles into the Oval Office and tell them to: “Get it done.” 

Q&A with Alan Simpson

The former Wyoming Senator talks about the politics of the moment and why the plan he coauthored with Erskine Bowles represents the best hope of reducing the debt before it is too late.

The Moment of Truth… Once Again

At a time when most reports in Washington gather dust, the Simpson-Bowles report is gathering steam. A look at what’s in the report, and why it is receiving attention 18 months after it was released.

Avoiding a Global Depression

With America headed toward a fiscal cliff, the former head of the Government Accountability Office argues that Congress and the President must overcome political dysfunction to avert a crisis.

TPP: An Opportunity for American Leadership in the Asia-Pacific Economy

Potentially larger than NAFTA, this new trade agreement is critical to American prospects for expanded export markets, yet is largely unknown.

A New Trade Relationship with Europe?

The trade issues dividing the U.S. and EU are not new. What is new is our common concern about the challenge posed by China.

What we need now: A Joint Committee on Congressional Reform

While partisanship has clearly risen, one of the more chronic problems with congressional decision-making is procedural dysfunction.

The Edge of the Fiscal Cliff

As America teeters on the brink of a debt crisis, it is critical nothing be done that would force the American people over the edge.

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Republican Governors

With voters set to elect governors in 11 states, a professor and former statehouse aide looks at the qualities that make up a good leader.

Virginia in the Balance

In 2000, the presidential election came down to the votes of one state – Florida. In 2012, the election may hinge on the votes of the Old Dominion.

Ripon Profile of Luis G. Fortuño

The Governor of Puerto Rico discusses the importance of fiscal discipline and his hero in American politics.

In this Edition

Shortly after the November 2008 election, I mentioned to a few friends that I thought one of the first things Barack Obama was going to do after being sworn in as President was call his national security team into the Oval Office and tell them to: “Get bin Laden.” 

With the 2012 election less than 100 days away, perhaps it’s a good time to make another prediction — if Barack Obama wins a second term as President, one of the first things he’s going to do is call Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles into the Oval Office and tell them to: “Get it done.” 

Simpson and Bowles, of course, are the Co-Chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Otherwise known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission, it is the Commission that Obama himself created. It’s also the Commission that the President effectively abandoned after they did exactly what he instructed them to do – that is, develop a plan to get spending under control and reduce the national debt. 

The fact that the President declined to endorse their recommendations, which they released in December of 2010, should surprise no one. As Senator Simpson explains in this latest edition of the FORUM, “he knew when he touched entitlement reform – which we do — his base would have ripped him to shreds.” As for the opposition, Simpson continued, “anything he would have voted for, the Republicans would have come together and said, ‘Vote against it.’” Without the President’s endorsement, the plan was dead in the water.

Amazingly, 18 months later, the Simpson-Bowles plan has been resurrected, and has become something of a symbol – a symbol not only of the tough choices that need to be made to get the Nation’s fiscal house in order, but of what can be accomplished when Republicans and Democrats lay down their political arms and come together for the common good. It is also, as Simpson puts it, “the only game in town.” Tom Coburn supports it. Nancy Pelosi supports it. If he wins a second term, I predict President Obama, electorally liberated and politically unencumbered, will support it, too. 

What about Mitt Romney? In Paul Ryan, he has selected as his running mate a man who not only served on the Simpson-Bowles Commission, but voted against the final set of recommendations because they didn’t go far enough. Ryan has authored his own budget that would achieve that goal. The House of Representatives approved the Ryan budget on a mostly party line vote earlier this year. No Democrat supported it and 10 Republicans opposed it. Now, the Romney campaign apparently can’t decide whether it wants to run on the budget or run away from it. 

Here’s another idea — rather playing defense on the Ryan budget, Governor Romney should go on the offense by embracing the Simpson-Bowles plan. Conservatives would no doubt howl at the idea, objecting, among other things, to the fact that the plan raises revenue and caps federal spending at 23% of the GDP, which many feel is too high. But these objections ignore the fact that Simpson-Bowles remains something of a work in progress; in fact, negotiations with a group of nearly 50 bipartisan Senators are continuing to this day. 

More importantly, it also ignores the fact that embracing Simpson-Bowles would send a powerful signal to two important groups. To the business community, it would send a signal that America may elect a President who supported a credible and politically viable plan to address the Nation’s debt crisis – which just about every expert says is needed to calm global markets and ease economic fears. 

To political independents, embracing Simpson-Bowles would send a signal that Mitt Romney believes in bipartisanship and is willing to work across party lines to address the greatest fiscal challenge of our time. 

Given the vitriol of this campaign season, that is something independents would welcome, and most Americans would embrace.

Lou Zickar
The Ripon Forum