Bowles, Simpson push for bipartisanship in Washington, D.C. - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Bowles, Simpson push for bipartisanship in Washington, D.C.

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Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has long said he thinks the Bowles-Simpson plan is the best one to fix the nation's fiscal problems.

On Sept. 10, Manchin brought the plan's namesakes to West Virginia to discuss the plan and what the federal government can do to prevent another recession.

Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and Erskine Bowles, who served as chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, were tasked by President Barack Obama in 2010 to form a debt commission and take a look at some of the fiscal issues facing the country. Their report identified four major fiscal issues facing the United States: health care, defense spending, the tax code and increasing interest rates. The men also said politicians need to buckle down and compromise to do something about the nation's finances before the end of the year. That's when Bowles said the nation will go over a financial cliff.

"I believe that first of all, we have no choice," he said regarding bipartisan compromise. "At the end of this year, we face what many people in wash refer to as the fiscal cliff. This is $7 trillion worth of fiscal events that will hit America in the gut at the end of this year."

The Bush tax cuts and payroll tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year. Also, federal budget cuts, or "sequestration," will be enacted Jan. 2, 2013, meaning the budgets of federally funded programs and projects could be severely impacted. According to Bowles, the sequestration is the result of the Super Committee's failure to reach a compromise last year.

However, Bowles said he fears sequestration could lead to another economic recession that could be much worse than the most previous one. Some members of Congress want to wait to act until after the November election, but it would be too late.

"Many Republicans believe that if we wait and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are elected, if we go over the fiscal cliff they'll be in a better negotiating position to negotiation with Democrats," Bowles said. "Many Democrats believe if we go over the fiscal cliff … Republicans can look at the tax cuts and they're in a better negotiating position."

But that proposition is too risky.

"If we go over this cliff and we go back into a recession and the business community loses confidence these guys can govern, you will see the worst fiscal crisis this country has ever faced," he said. "That's a risk I'm not willing to take."

Both Simpson and Bowles said the federal government has no real spending plan and that could be detrimental to taxpayers and businesses. Bowles likened the government's actions to a company who knew it was facing $7 trillion in economic events and doing nothing to prevent it or soften the blow.

"We don't have a budget in this country," he said. "We have a month-to-month continuing resolution. That's no way to run an organization."

"This country has no plan whatsoever," Simpson said. "Other countries have a plan. If we had a plan, there would be no more discussion about downgrade this or that."

And that lack of planning means every state in the nation and every taxpayer would feel the hit of the possible second recession. One audience member asked if a Hail Mary was possible, but Simpson said that's unlikely.

"A Hail Mary is difficult to foresee for me when you see the personal bitterness, an almost hatred (in Congress)," Simpson said. "You have (Republican Kentucky Sen. Mitch) McConnell and (Senate President Harry) Reid in the room — those are a couple of prizefighters and they love to fight. You have (Speaker of the House John) Boehner and (House Minority Leader Nancy) Pelosi, they scrap. The caucuses consist of how do we screw the other party?"

Manchin, who has been in the Senate for almost two years, said he has found there isn't a lot of time for members of Congress to sit down and discuss one-on-one the issues and problems facing America's budget. Between fundraisers and flying back and forth to Washington, time to form relationships is limited.

"Everyone is going back home," he said. "They're flying back to get home by Friday so they can talk with their constituents."

Manchin suggested the federal government not pay for members of Congress to return home more than once a month. But Bowles took it a step farther.

"I don't want to pay these guys until they have a budget," he said.

But to get a budget, both chambers and both sides of the aisle must come to some sort of agreement. But in the halls of Congress, "compromise" can be a dirty word.

"The word compromise is now a dirty word," Simpson said. "The word compromise is life. It's a life of marriage, it's a life of friendship, it's a life of every known thing we do in life. We've had people in my party say ‘I don't know the word compromise.' That's terrible. If you can't do this, you shouldn't be in a legislative body. You're not being a wimp when you compromise on an issue. That's the most troubling thing I've ever seen."

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