Simpson: Politicians need to step up, tackle big debt
February 6th, 2011
10:39 AM ET
11 years ago

Simpson: Politicians need to step up, tackle big debt

Washington (CNN) - Former Republican Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, one of the men tasked with proposing a path to get America's fiscal house in order, said he's still waiting for lawmakers to take on the debt charge.

"I'm waiting for the politician to get up and say, there's only one way to do this, you dig into the big four, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and defense," Simpson said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union. "Anybody giving you anything different than that, you want to walk out the door, stick your finger down your throat, and give them the green weenie."

Simpson, who led the commission with Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, criticized politicians who are proposing to get rid of "earmarks, all waste, fraud and abuse, foreign aid, Air Force One, congressional pensions" as playing politics.

"That's just sparrow belch in the midst of the typhoon," Simpson told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.

President Obama created the bipartisan group to address the nation's economic challenges. The national debt is currently over $14 trillion and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner predicts the United States will hit its debt ceiling of $14.3 trillion, set last year, between the end of March and middle of May.

The debt commission released its proposals to cut $4 trillion from the budget over the next decade in December, but the suggestions failed to win enough committee votes to be considered as one package on the Senate floor. In the president's State of the Union address this year he endorsed fiscal restraint but stopped short of endorsing the plans laid out by the 18-member commission, which included defense cuts, reforming the tax code, changes in social security and controlling health care costs.

But Simpson said re-election is preventing full reform because members of Congress are worried that endorsing the necessary cuts could mean defeat in their next election.

"Well, the god here, in Washington, is the god of re-election. I think that god is a little tarnished. I think the feet are crumbling," Simpson said. "They (the American people) sent these people to Washington to bring home the bacon. I mean, they sent - they elected these people who could get them the dam, who could get them the new money, who could get them the downtown redevelopment, who get them more and more and more."

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

Filed under: Alan Simpson • Debt • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. BeanerECMO

    Waytago, Big Al. You did diddley squat when you were sucking at the public's trough for so many decades (and are still doing so), and the only solution that you and your band of suckers could come up with is raise taxes and fees, and very little in the way of cuts. You have zip credibility regarding deficit reduction. You're a dem in RINO clothing. Further, if you believe that those collecting social security and the like, why don't you set an example and forego any futher government payouts to you.

    February 6, 2011 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  2. Annie, Atlanta

    Hey, I have a suggestion. Stop the wars. Stop policing the world. Focus on America – not of course to the exclusion of all else. We still have responsibilities. But anyone else out there sick of feeding the huge Military Industrial Complex (the same one President Eisenhower warned against) to the exclusion of everything else, including our crumbling infrastructure and the education of our future generations? And why is it that when talking about austerity measures, its always those who can least afford it that lose the most and those who can afford to help out get even bigger breaks, like those extra tax breaks. This has not only gotten absurd, but obscene.

    February 6, 2011 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  3. Seth Hill

    Alan Simpson was a Senator when Ronald Reagan and George Bush 1 increased our federal debt more than any other time since WW2. I looked up his record; he took no stand on the budget then. Quarterbacking is much easier when you're no longer in the game.

    February 6, 2011 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  4. Seth Hill

    I should add that I agree with his deficit-reduction proposals, even though I'm a senior collecting Social Security. The trouble is not with our politicians, it's with us voters. We rarely look beyond a rabble-rousing speech or a pretty face.

    February 6, 2011 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  5. Nadeem

    So far the only people to admit to the real problem is Presidents Obamas debt commission. The GOP campaigned on debt and jobs and are running congress like a bush of 5th graders.

    February 6, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  6. MikefromWV

    Got to give the man credit. He is totally correct in what he says. But what politician has the gonads to stand up and demand the spending cuts that are necessary?

    February 6, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  7. vic nashville tn

    We have to monitor our credit score but government don’t

    Our politician only problem they worried about fundraising now days race are expensive. Three months after the election they are focusing on the fundraising for next election so lobbyist wins
    Before the election they say we will bring the change after election they change reason politician like Sarah Palin’s fear mongering statements

    February 6, 2011 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  8. GonzoinHouston

    Whatever else you may want to say about Simpson, he's right in this case. I would add a fifth sacred cow to the four he mentioned; namely taxes. The W tax cuts were excessive then and are excessive today. Extending the cuts for the top 2% in the current situation was insane.

    Seth Hill, above, hit another good point. The root of it all is us voters. We have to accept the cuts and taxes that will affect us personally. Anyone who isn't willing to bear their share of the burden is a poor excuse for an American.

    February 6, 2011 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  9. Randy, San Francisco

    No politician in Washington, including Tea Party members, has the courage or wil to tackle the big four sacred cows: Social Security, Medicare, Defense, and tax breaks for special interests. Deb reduction efforts are futile without tackling the biggest parts of the US Budget.

    February 6, 2011 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  10. lynn

    Cut the Pentagon war machine, our debt would disappear overnight and we'd still have more than enough to care for all Americans with their own tax moneies being returned to improve our lives. Seniors have paid into SS and Medicare for their entire working lives, so it's ours to begin with. The Pentagon is just a black hole that sucks up money in the name of defense, but what good did they do prior to 9/11?

    February 6, 2011 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  11. HowardFein

    They say that they want to pick on social security? THEY ALREADY HAVE! No COLA for two years. Retirement raised to 67. What have they done about medicare or medicaid? Raise. Raise. Raise without limit!

    February 6, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  12. mixed-signal

    Medicare and social security each take about 20% of the federal budget. Defense is close to another 20% and interest payments are almost there, as well. These four areas all need to be trimmed, and it doesn't take much to make a big difference.

    Since younger folks don't expect to get SS anyway, let's trim back the benefits to be paid in 20 years by about 1% every years or so. Then we'll all have time to save for ourselves and ease the debt burden.

    Why is it so hard to get people talking about simple but serious plans like that?

    February 6, 2011 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |