Congress’ 12-member super-committee on deficit reduction is doomed to failure because the two parties are bound to load it with members who will never see eye to eye, former Republican Senate Whip Alan Simpson tells Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview.
The plain-talking senior statesman, whose own report on cutting spending has now been superseded by the decision to bring in the new commission, says the only good thing about it is that it will bring attention to the financial mess the country is in.
“It’s best described as a baby-step forward,” Simpson said of the commission. “Maybe a lurch would be a better word because it really doesn’t do any heavy lifting.”
Congress agreed on the commission this week as a pre-condition for agreeing to lift the federal debt ceiling and avoid a government default. In a bid to concentrate both Republican and Democratic minds, if it cannot reach an agreement by Thanksgiving on where to cut $1.5 trillion from the budget, half will automatically come from defense and half from entitlement programs.
“If the leadership decides to load that 12-member commission with the people who meet their own standards of rigidity, it won’t work,” said Simpson. “But it will get attention. There will be a big bee-sting on the fanny when they don’t agree and they have the automatic cut."
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Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles worked on the same problem for 10 months, but their recommendations were not heeded. He sees the same outcome for the super-committee.
He said his committee’s recommendations, closing loopholes in the tax code to raise an extra $1.1 trillion and simplifying it into three tax rates are still relevant. But he understands why President Barack Obama did nothing with the report.
“When we did our plan and presented it to the president, he didn’t touch it because he knew he’d get himself torn to ribbons,” the 79-year-old former Wyoming senator said. ”We didn’t leave any sacred cow unslaughtered in its pen.”
He said that avoiding default was “of course a plus,” but said he believes interest rates will still go up.
“We’ve raised the debt limit so somebody out there’s going to loan us money, but they’re going to say, ‘You know, you guys didn’t really do too well with that, so we’re still going to loan you money but the interest rate’s going to go up’ and then watch out.
“Interest rates go up, inflation goes up and who gets hurt the worst? The little guy that everybody always talks about day and night.
“They all say, ‘We’re doing this for the little guy, the vulnerable, the poor.’ Hell, half the people in the United States don’t pay any income tax so they can’t be battered around too hard."
Simpson had harsh words for figures on both sides of the current debate.
The only one he praised was House Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, whose own budget plan has also been severely criticized.
“Erskine and I felt that’s one of the brightest guys we’ve ever worked with and he knew when he did throw out his plan that he would be savaged, but at least he had the guts to throw his out there.”
He said Ryan’s plan got to grips with social security. “The next jerk that tells you we’re going to balance the budget on the backs of poor old seniors, give him some noble earthy retort. I’ll tell you what the hell we’re doing with social security – trying to make it solvent for 75 years.
“By doing nothing and being terrified by the AARP and…the senior vote…you’re going to waddle up to the window in 2036, and that’s not far away, and you’re going to get a check for 23 percent less. How smart is that?”
But Simpson wasn’t so kind to tea party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who suggested the current deal on the deficit is little more than “tapping the brakes as we speed toward a fiscal cliff.”
“I would ask Sen. DeMint what he wants to do with social security to make it solvent without just saying we need to do that,” said Simpson. “I would ask him what specifically he would do to Medicare, which is the monster mastodon in the kitchen, and I would ask him how he intends to get that off automatic pilot.
“And what he intends to do in the Defense Department where they have …a health care plan for military retirees where they pay $470 bucks a year premium and no co-pay. Ask him what he’s going to do about them.”
He also questioned Utah Sen. Mike Lee and tea party demands that linked the debt ceiling rise with a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
“Mike Lee, who’s a nice fellow, has said he wasn’t going to accept anything at all in the way of a compromise unless it had a Constitutional Amendment to balance the budget. Well now, guys and gals, just get serious.
“If you can get that done it will take you five to 10 years and that’s impossible, we don’t have that time. It’s going to take a two-thirds vote of each House and 38 states to ratify.”
He said it would fail in the states because most already have balanced budget amendments and voters have seen that that has led to cuts in services.
He also admonished Republicans who have signed on to tax advocate Grover Norquist’s ‘No Tax Increase’ pledge, calling Norquist “a good guy with a bad plan.”
“Grover can’t murder you, he can’t burn you in your house. The only thing he can do to you is defeat you for reelection. And if that means more to you than your country, you don’t deserve to be in Congress.”
Simpson urged both sides to stop slinging mud and using terms such as “Obamacare” to demonize their opponents’ plans.
“You can call it Obamacare or ElvisPresleycare or Idon’tcarecare,
“Let’s get back to what the hell we’re doing. We have a system of Medicare, where a guy over 70 can get a heart operation that could buy half of his county and he doesn’t even get a bill. Hasn’t anybody got that figured out?"
Using his trademark blunt language, Simpson said plans to cut waste, fraud and abuse would make little difference to the massive federal debt. “That’s a sparrow belch in the midst of the typhoon,” he said.
“It’s a great country, but I’ll tell you, your grandchildren will be picking grit with the chickens if we do nothing.”
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