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US debt panel heads fear partisan politics will stall solutions

Posted January 18, 2012

Erskine Bowles

— The heads of a bipartisan commission that were appointed by the president to study the federal debt said Wednesday that thick partisan politics in Washington are preventing good solutions to the nation's debt crisis.

Duke University hosted former University of North Carolina system president Erskine Bowles and former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson for a discussion on what to do about the federal budget and restoring the nation's confidence. 

President Barack Obama created the bipartisan budget commission in February 2010 to identify how to improve the fiscal situation by 2015. The plan they proposed, with its combination of tax increases and spending cuts, have stalled in the very divided Congress.

"Money guys liked it, political guys said, 'lay low,'" Simpson said.

Simpson and Bowles have taken to traveling the nation, trying to drum up support for their plan in the hopes it can be turned into legislation. 

"We are making great progress and have a huge bipartisan coalition in the House and Senate," Bowles said.

US debt panels heads Bowles, Simpson talk solutions at Duke US debt panel heads Bowles, Simpson talk solutions at Duke

They said the nation's debt has surpassed $15 trillion and that the budget crisis is caused by four things: healthcare, defense, the tax code and interest charged on debt.

If nothing is done, Bowles and Simpson said, the U.S. will owe more than $1 trillion in interest alone by 2020.

"That is a formula for failure," Bowles said.

Audience members at the discussion, which was moderated by Philip Bennett, a Duke public policy professor and managing editor of the PBS show "Frontline," were optimistic.

"When we get hurt enough, we find a way to make things happen," Nelson Pierce said. "I think that will happen this time."


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  • whatusay Jan 19, 2012

    miseem.... you only emphasize my point....cut spending, balance the budget, reduce entitlements, make people work, and increase taxes. Or, you can agree with Obama's play, increase entitlements, increase spending, increase illegal immigration, increase unemployment, increase unemployment benefits, reduce the opportunities for job growth, increase the size of government, support unions at all cost, and bail out bankrupt companies with tax payers money. I believe the debt commission had a better plan than Obama.

  • gunny462 Jan 19, 2012

    "They said the nation's debt has surpassed $15 trillion and that the budget crisis is caused by four things: healthcare, defense, the tax code and interest charged on debt."

    The said Obamacare NOT healthcare and intitlements. As pbo as already reduced the military budget by 40% it's time to start on OHC, intitlements and the tax code.

  • mep Jan 19, 2012

    Neither party has the political courage to do what is NECESSARY (Massive cuts in spending and reform the tax code) to prevent the debt crisis our country is heading for. However, the country that bails out the US will.

  • miseem Jan 19, 2012

    whatusay - you are wrong. The point of the commission was to present a balanced solution to the debt situation. This included reform of the tax code and reform of entitlements. They called for an increase in revenue, in other words, increasing taxes overall, and cutting expenditures in entitlements. The GOP has specifically stated that any increase in taxes would not be approved by them. If revising the tax code resulted in a dime's increase in taxes, it was a no go. How's that for buying into the debt commission recommendations?

  • alwaysconcernedmom Jan 18, 2012

    If she is so concerned about education, why does she steal from the "education lottery"?

  • whatusay Jan 18, 2012

    billO...a shadow government is what our founding fathers believed in. Our congress is supposed to be "part-time". They were never granted health insurance, a pension, vote themselves a raise with automatic cost of living built in. You know very little about the history of this country and how our government has "bought" themselves lifetime priviledges that the ordinary citizen does not enjoy.

  • whatusay Jan 18, 2012 are totally wrong. The GOP agreed with Simpson and Boles's recommendations. Obama and the democrats would not do anything to cut entitlements and cut spending. Look up the facts.

  • djofraleigh Jan 18, 2012

    tickets are required for the 5 p.m. event and are available through the Duke Box Office online or by calling (919)684-4444 -- nbc17...

    of course, it started at 5pm...

  • djofraleigh Jan 18, 2012

    This is notice given the day of the event, and nothing about how or where to get the FREE tickets.

  • djofraleigh Jan 18, 2012

    Term limits would turn this country around -- comment

    the voters, if so inclined, could do that now...