Deficit reduction plan: Durbin and Bixby weigh in

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and the Concord Coalition's Bob Bixby comment on the impact of the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction proposal.

Susan Walsh / AP / File
Sen. Dick Durbin (r.), here seen stumping with President Obama (l.) for U.S. senatorial candidate Alexi Giannoulias, Oct. 7, cast a vote Friday in favor of the Bowles-Simpson deficit reduction proposal, as part of the president's blue ribbon deficit reduction commission. The proposal received 11 out of 18 votes: a majority, but not the requisite super-majority (14 votes) needed.

I really can’t say it any better than these two have today– Senator Dick Durbin (a Democratic leader from Illinois) and my boss Bob Bixby (executive director of the Concord Coalition).

Senator Durbin explains his “yes” vote:

On Friday, when President Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform gathers to consider a plan to bring our national debt under control, I will be voting yes. It was not an easy decision, and I know my vote will be widely criticized, but I believe it is the right thing to do.

The simple fact is this: America needs to grow our economy and reduce our $13.8 trillion debt.

This plan is not perfect, and it is certainly not the plan I would have written. But it will help put Americans back to work and it will reduce our federal debt dramatically. If we don’t act now — if we pass this issue on to another Congress, another generation — the tough choices we face now only get tougher…

The question my closest political friends are asking is this: Why is a progressive like Dick Durbin voting for this deficit commission report? First, all politicians, left or right, Democrat or Republican, have to acknowledge the deficit crisis our nation faces. Borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar we spend for missiles or food stamps is unsustainable. And being indebted for generations to China and OPEC does not make American a stronger nation.

When we engage in the critical decisions about our nation’s future budgets, I want progressive voices at the table to argue that we must protect the most vulnerable in our society and demand fairness in budget cuts.

My friend, mentor and former Illinois Sen. Paul Simon, echoing former Sen. Paul Douglas , famously said: “To be a liberal doesn’t mean you’re a wastrel. We must, in fact, be thrifty if we are to be really humane.”

It’s time for all of us to come together to make hard choices. I am ready to do my part.

And Bob explains why the falling short of the “consensus” 14 votes shouldn’t be regarded as a “failure”–but instead that the support earned from a bipartisan majority of the commission’s members (11 of the 18) should be recognized as a pretty significant “success”:

Many skeptics thought President Barack Obama’s fiscal commission was a pointless exercise, doomed to failure on its assignment to develop a plan to rein in the massive federal deficits that are projected for the next decade and beyond.

But today a bipartisan majority of that panel proved the skeptics wrong, and the nation owes these commission members a debt of gratitude.

They have given their approval to a sweeping set of recommendations that would strengthen our economy, repair important programs for older Americans that are now threatened with insolvency, and protect our children and future generations from being saddled with trillions of dollars in additional debt.

To do this, they had to move beyond stale partisan rhetoric to confront the difficult choices and trade-offs that elected officials in both parties have long avoided. They had to turn a deaf ear to those at both ends of the political spectrum who urged them to ignore vast swaths of the federal budget. They had to look at all the options.

They had to accept the principle of shared sacrifice. And in the end they had to compromise, with each commission member accepting some elements of the plan that they didn’t like…

The commission majority, and particularly Co-Chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, deserve credit for their diligence and hard work in putting together a roadmap that offers the country at least one way out of the fiscal swamp. In addition, they provided a badly needed model for the sort of compromise and cooperation that will be needed to move the United States toward a more promising future.

More from me later on the “common ground” I see among all of the various fiscal plans that have been recently laid out for us. There is a lot of reason for optimism. Don’t let the grumpy, entrenched folks out there get you down.

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