Falling off 'fiscal cliff' is 'insane' but likely, say Simpson and Bowles

Debt-fighting duo Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, who led Obama's bipartisan debt-reduction panel, speaking at a Monitor breakfast Wednesday warn partisans in Congress against going over the fiscal cliff in a bid to gain a political advantage.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Senators Alan Simpson (r.) and Erskine Bowles (l.) were guests at the Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

Debt-fighting duo Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, and former Sen. Alan Simpson, a Republican, served as co-chairmen of President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and are cofounders of the Campaign to Fix the Debt. They were the guests at the Nov. 28 Monitor breakfast. 

Odds of avoiding the “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts slated to take effect Jan. 1:

Bowles: “We’ve got a real crisis in this fiscal cliff.... It would be insane to breach this fiscal cliff. Yet I think there is only a one-third possibility we will actually get something done before Dec. 31.”

Consequences of failure to steer away from the fiscal cliff:

Bowles: “You will see economic growth slow by as much as 3 to 5 percent ... enough to put us back into recession…. It will throw another 2 million people out of work.”

Claims of partisan advantage:  

Simpson: “The sad part [is] when you have leaders of both parties casting out into the water the bait that says maybe it would help the Democrats if we go off the cliff, and the other side, maybe it would help the Republicans if we go off the cliff.... That’s like betting your country.”

Rating Mr. Obama’s leadership on deficit and debt reduction:

Bowles: “There is no question in my mind that the White House is absolutely serious about getting something done. I wish the discussions had started earlier.”

Need for compromise:

Simpson: “I always love the rigidity of some of those in my party. They are rigid as a fireplace poker but without the occasional warmth.”

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