The Washington Times - February 19, 2013, 10:22AM

The chairmen of President Obama’s now defunct bipartisan debt commission floated another proposal Tuesday that aims to split the differences between the hardline deficit reduction stances Democrats and Republican have taken on Capitol Hill.

The plan ( from Erskine Bowles, the former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, and former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, urges Congress to embrace $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction through a combination of new taxes and spending cuts spread out over the next decade. It also calls on lawmakers to cancel the “mindless” across the board cuts to domestic and defense spending - known as sequesters - that are set to kick in March 1 and could further jeopardize the nation’s sluggish economic recovery.


The plan slices $600 billion out of Medicare and Medicaid spending, and raises $600 billion in new tax revenue over ten years by limiting tax loopholes and deductions in the federal tax code - pressuring Mr. Obama and Democrats to swallow deeper cuts to health care, and Republicans to swallow more tax increases.

“We have to convince Democrats that they have to do more on health care than they have been willing to do today, and we have to convince Republicans that they have to be willing to do more on revenues than they have already done,” Mr. Bowles said at a Politico “Playbook” breakfast. 

The proposal also calls for stricter caps on discretionary spending and to use what is known as the “chained CPI” - as opposes to the simple Consumer Price Index - to calculate cost-of-living increases for a number of federal programs, including Social Security and some veterans’ benefits.

The national debt, which recently sailed past $16.5 trillion, has dominated the national political conversation over the past two years. 

Mr. Obama tapped Mr. Simpson and Mr. Bowles more than two years ago to head the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which released its recommendations in December 2010. 

The plan, though, has gone nowhere, with opponents of the plan falling back on familiar arguments against the proposal’s tax increases and deep cuts to sacred downs such as Social Security and Medicare.

The new proposal from Mr. Simpson and Mr. Bowles, who now head the  non-partisan Campaign to Fix the Debt, comes days after Congress skipped town for a weeklong break after failing to reach a deal to avert the $85 billion in sequester cuts that were triggered by the 2011 debt deal and are scheduled to take hold in less than two weeks.

Both men said the sequesters threaten the nation’s fragile recovery and that  deficit reduction should be phased in more gradually.

“They are dumb, and they are stupid, stupid, stupid,” Mr. Bowles said.

Mr. Simpson also warned that if Mr. Obama’s legacy is riding on his ability to forge a compromise on Capitol Hill over the final four years of his presidency.

“If he can’t cut the mustard with solvency of Social Security under honest appraisals of the trustees and he can’t get a handle on an automatic pilot rig of health care he will have a failed presidency,” the Republican said.