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A Bipartisan Path Forward to Securing America's Future

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Preamble

More than two years ago, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Fiscal Commission) – a bipartisan group of lawmakers, civic leaders, and fiscal experts – released its final recommendations on how to chart a path forward to meaningful and bipartisan debt reduction. After having the privilege to serve as co-chairs of that commission, both of us – a former Republican Senator from Wyoming and a former chief of staff to Democratic President Bill Clinton – have travelled the country speaking to hundreds of thousands of Americans about our debt challenge. We’ve met American men and women of all different ages, incomes, backgrounds, and ideologies – and with many different ideas of how to fix our economy. Yet all shared two things in common – a thirst for the truth and a willingness to be part of the solution if everyone is in it together.

Unfortunately, back in Washington, the last two years have been defined by fiscal brinksmanship. Instead of enacting a comprehensive deficit reduction plan, similar to the size and scope of what we or other bipartisan groups and experts recommended, policymakers have gone crisis to crisis waiting until the last moment to do the bare minimum to avoid catastrophe. The focus on elections over solutions and contrast over compromise has left our country with tremendous fiscal uncertainty and no plan to put our debt on a sustainable downward path.

The failure to get our debt under control, reform our tax code, and put our entitlement programs on a fiscally sustainable course is robbing us of the ability to invest in our future and will leave us without the resources we need to meet other challenges facing our nation. And moving forward will be out of our reach as long as we continue to “pass the buck” on the debt crisis. It is critical that leaders in both parties come together to put our fiscal house in order if they have any hope of addressing the other challenges and opportunities that we face as a nation. 

To be sure, progress has been made. Out of the debt ceiling agreement in August of 2011 and the fiscal cliff agreement from the beginning of this year, policymakers have enacted as much as $2.7 trillion in deficit reduction, by some measures. Yet for all the unnecessary brinksmanship to achieve these savings, what we have achieved is woefully insufficient. Reducing discretionary caps to require cuts from future appropriators and raising taxes on the top 1 percent of Americans are the easiest parts of deficit reduction, and the parts least likely to lead to long-term fiscal sustainability.

Despite multiple efforts from Speaker Boehner and President Obama to reach a “grand bargain,” the country has still done nothing to make our entitlement programs sustainable for future generations, make our tax code more competitive and pro-growth, or put our debt on a downward path. Instead, we have allowed a “sequestration” to mindlessly cut spending across-the-board in all areas except those contributing to spending growth.

We believe there is a better way, and we believe it is politically possible to get there. Last December, the negotiating parties were as close as they’ve ever been on a plan to put our fiscal house in order. Although they were not able to reach agreement at that time, we continue to believe that agreement is possible.

The plan we have put forward here is not our ideal plan, it is not the perfect plan, and it is certainly not the only plan. It is an effort to show both sides that a deal is possible; a deal where neither side compromises their principles but instead relies on principled compromise. Such a deal would invigorate our economy and demonstrate to the public that Washington can solve problems, and leave a better future for our grandchildren.

Click here to read the full proposal.

Click here to read a summary of the proposal.

Click here to read how the plan meets the principles for bipartisan deficit reduction.

Click here to read policy analysis of the plan's major provisions.

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Apr 19, 2013
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A principled comprehensive deficit reduction proposal