tv Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN September 22, 2011 6:00am-7:00am EDT
people to discipline ourselves and address these problems effectively. they have not yet been shown a policy that will deliver economic health and a better future or our children. i look forward to the day when people in both parties summon the courage to look past these temporary and before americans are in a program that have that sort of promise. >> i do think a good approach is easier than a small approach. if you're going to just nick and he will dime things, you get one interest versus another. you get one interest strongly
committed to whatever you're going to do. if you go big, and an obvious model is the tax reform, then you got all the interest competing against each other, and i think it's easier for members of congress to resist the cries of a million angry interest groups as opposed to the cry of one million angry interest groups. if you go big, you marshal public opinion. you win over the people who want simplicity in our tax code and in our budget. and if people are willing to say, hey, everyone's taken a hit, i think they're going to be along more willing to go along with you when they say he's not going to take a hit. the american people get it. they're ahead of their elected leaders. they live beyond our means. they know we can't grow our way out. we can't just put our way out. we can't tax our way out. we need to put everything on
the table. everybody needs to be at the table, and we need transformational reforms to our budget processes and controls, to social security, medicare, medicaid, and other healthcare spending, to defense and other spending, as well as comprehensive tax reform. and we need it soon, because the clock is ticking, and time is not working in our favor. >> i would say to members of both parties, you were elected to make tough decisions. you were elected to provide leadership for this country in tough times. we're coming to a point that you're being put to the test. it is critically important that you work together, and in fact, you've got to watch each other's back. this shouldn't have become so political that it's not a solvable problem. >> if the supercommittee fails, it will a failure of the congress and our country. we want the country at the
precipice of default in paying our debt. that undermines confidence here at home and around the world. i've talked to numerous business leaders, large and small, who have indicated to me that the success of the debt reduction committee is critical if we're going to have confidence in america's ability to manage its finances in a way that will keep our economy growing and maintain fiscal stability and responsibility. >> ok, we will now turn to our second panel if the first panel was not filled with super all-stars enough, this one most certainly is. i'm just going to quickly go down. we have andy stern, who is right now the senior research fellow at georgetown public policy institute and was on the fiscal commission. senator pete domenici, the co-chair of the domenici task force. the former head of aarp.
the former member of congress and president and c.e.o. of american gas association. congressman sprat, former chairman of the house budget committee. and charlie cobb, the head of c.e.d. what we thought we would discuss in this panel is sort of bring in the dmpt kinds of special interests that are at play, both in helping to move this issue forward and sometimes standing in the way, sort of protecting different areas which make it harder to have a big budget deal and how we might move that forward. and as well, what the public's response is. so many of these people have been out there talking with people, hearing how they respond to different approaches, different proposals, and so that's what we hope to get out of this sure to be rich discussion. pete, if you want to toss out the first couple of questions. >> let's go big, first of all work our group in terms of the public. given the debate we've seen over the bowles-simpson plan, proposals from the president, proposal on the house side from
republicans, the american public ready for this kind of deal, whether it's what the supercommittee is about to come up with, perhaps $1.5 trillion deficit reduction, or the idea on the table here about going big. andy stern, i'll start with you. is the public ready for this and the sacrifice that will be required of different groups? >> i think they're tired of it, doesn't seem to make my sense. at the same time, when you get to issues that are important to them, they're concerned about their particular area. so i think they're as ready as they're ever going to be. i don't think more information really matters. i think this is about making tough choices and moving on. >> senator domenici, is the public ready for this? >> well, i'm kind of of two minds, but i will let the part that i think is more realistic
answer. i don't think they are. because of one major thing. the biggest special interest, believe it or not, is the senior citizen and the aarp membership. that's the biggest lobbying group, without question. now, some people say that's not fair, they aren't a lobbying group, but they are, and they are very difficult and tough if they're not -- if they're dead set against you. now, where are they? well, from my standpoint, we have some more education to do, and it's very targeted, so hear me out. they've got a lot of information in the past six months, but where they aren't yet there is they don't understand yet that the program that they are going to
participate in or are participating in, medicare, medicaid, in the future, they don't understand that there's something basically going wrong with the program. so they still are of the opinion, the majority of them, when you say we're going to change the program to save money, they say why, it's my program, i paid for it. and until we have far more saying we understand, it's our program, but america hasn't paid for it yet and we're going to listen to how you might fix it, until we get there with a few more millions of people, we're going to have a very difficult time getting around the biggest most powerful lobbying group around, which are our seniors and retired people. >> and that cues up, some thoughts on what we just heard there, your own thoughts on whether the public is ready to this. >> the public is not ready at the moment. and there are several reasons
for this. number one, the public is too busy being worried and scared. this whole business about jobs, about underemployment, about people moving back in with their relatives, about all the dmplet things that we see going on with our faltering economy is really what is grabbing the people right now. secondly, these issues and the first panel showed this, these issues are so complicated and so difficult for the policy wonks to grasp that it's very hard for the average citizens to figure out what's going on. the third thing is they see this food fight in washington, and they want to wash their hands of it. in fact, they probably want to take a shower. and then finally, we're coming into election season, we're already basically in it, and so they're getting all these sound bites. what you have is a public that's want ready, but this is all the more reason to go big. we can't do this in tiny little
bites and increments. we can't keep coming back to the trough. we need to really get the public engaged. we need to give them honest information, and we need to lead. that's what policy makers and that's what people in washington and people in the state capitals have to do. so i believe, a, the public is not ready. b, the public can be supportive of this if we can do a good job of bringing them along. and c, we have to take advantage of the election season and not run away from it and say we can't do anything. >> dave and john, two former members of congress, two people who have seen the food fighting in washington firsthand, now a different perspective from your job. now your take. >> first of all, i think we have to go big, because i don't think there's an alternative. and to do that, i think you solve two things. one, you provide some economic certainty, you provide a road map to the future for both job
growth and for industry to invest and people to get back to work. but you also have a chance to restore some confidence in the political system, which there's absolutely no confidence that can be done. and the irony, and i think erskine said it properly in the last panel, there's maybe a better opportunity to go big and more comprehensive than there is small, because everyone has to be skin in the game, has to be seen as being part of the solution, and i think in our experience, that's the only way you can actually have big moves like this. you know, the business sector wants predictability as a certainty. they want level playing field. but they also want to see congress and the administration rise above partisanship and provide solutions. problem solve, biggest fear i have, and it changed a lot in this town, and probably because
of digital technology and the media and the rest, we are losing our capacity for strategic thinking and action. if we don't start addressing that, and that's what leaders do. they've move beyond the horizon. because the short term, we're in the food fight. if it's longer term, then i think we all understand the fair process, then we'll have an opportunity to affect the outcome. >> john spratt? >> when you take off -- when you take on the tax code, and the spending code and entitlements, medicare, medicaid, social security, and defense, you're going to see special interests form on capitol hill. it's extremely important that if we move forward, the country moves with us, and we've yet to do the job i think to explain
to them what's at stake and what it's going to mean to the average american taxpayer. we need to galvanize. there's a sentiment that is strongly concerned. dave would tell you the same thing about oklahoma. people are concerned about debt, and they can compare their own debt-laden situation with the government's debt-laden situation and what's happening to each other is of great concern to them, no question that they have a great deal of concern, they're not ready yet for whether the state can resolve its problem. it took us four different multiyear budget plans, between the balanced budget agreement of 1997, to bring the balance in the reagan-bush years, bring balance in those years. it's just an indication of where we had a much more attractive deficit than we did today, and it still took us
four sittings, four plans to resolve it. i think we maybe and probably should be about getting certain things done one step at another. >> the one thing you know when we talking when she we were in the congress, we talked about billions. we didn't talk about trillions. that is a different discussion today. it is a different dynamic. >> and i've only been out three years. >> normally i'm an optimistic, but no, i don't think the public is ready. i also want to say, i'm not so sure the congress is ready. i'll explain that in a second. first of all, everywhere you look in this country, you see people addicted to short term. you see it reflected in the obesity epidemic. we can't make investment decisions right when it comes either to our finances or to the food we eat.
we overconsume calories and we don't exercise enough. so we've got a short-termism problem with the american people, and we don't have the leadership yet to help turn this around. with regard to the congress, i want to mick a point that i don't think has come up today, and that is i think it's going to be very difficult for us to fix this system until we take a hard look at the way money comes in to our political system. it's the campaign finance reform issue that i want to mention. just look what happened the last time it came up on the chopping block. the special interest came after that issue within seconds. so i think if we're serious about this, if the congress is serious about this, if the country is serious about this, we have to take a look at how money is coming into the system, and it's a whole lot worse now in the wake of the citizens united case. 28 years ago, i went to work in
the government, and the first one i got to meet is sitting right here, and that's dave stockman when he was director at o.m.b. and when dave left the government, many of you may remember, he wrote a book called "the triumph of politics" that became a bestseller. i hope it's still available on the kindle or wherever. i hope it's still in print, because i think everyone should read it. i think it's the basis of the comments you made in the previous panel. so i'm optimistic. i support go big and everything that's been said, but i'm also skeptical. i don't think the country is ready for it yet, and i'd like to see more evidence that the congress is. and i think that the money and politics system in this country is making it much harder for men and women, republicans and members in congress to come together. the financing of our political system has led to increased leverage from the special interest, and it's throde polarization among our elected representatives.
>> great points made by all panelists. i want to pick up on where you were, because i'm sort of struck by -- well, i'm struck that on the panel we have people with backgrounds from labor, from aarp, from business, and two former chairmen of the budget committees, so i really to want take advantage of this kind of incredible group of different perspectives. but i disagree with you that the public isn't necessarily ready to go big, because i think what frustrates the public so much is that they keep getting -- i mean, there are huge skirmishes, and we always walk off the cliff over and over, and then the headlines the next day are the problem is not fixed at all. we're still facing mountains of debt. i think the public does realize that hard choices will be involved, and i think the public, if we're going to go through these bloody political battles, would at least like there to be an ending that's successful this time. but i think congress may not be ready. and i guess one of the questions that we've been thinking about is, is there a way to change the tone to allow in particular the 12 members of
the supercommittee and the leaders in congress to know that there is this widespread group of leaders and the public that actually do want them to make the hard choices. and so when i see a group like this and the others who are here today who are all making the case for go big, i think it's immensely powerful, and i guess the question is to all of you experts, how would you help the supercommittee to get over this hump of being willing to do something that is incredibly hard? senator domenici? >> well, i came in with -- >> put your pic on. >> is it on? i came in with a plaque, what do you call it? a chart that says go big. i'm for going big, because i think it's just as hard to do it big as it is to do it lesser or smaller, without a doubt. but i brought a chart in here. i know it's against the rules. >> we've been having a chart war. you're about to win. >> from this day forward,
anybody that invites me to a budget is going to have this sign, because i'm going to make this sign part of the discussion of our problem one way or another. now, if you can see the blue line, you understand -- i'm sorry, sir, if i give it to you, i can't get it over here. see the blue line? the blue line is healthcare. and the other lines are very major, major federal expenditures, discretionary spending, you see these two, they're under control under almost anybody else's spending. they're under control. but look at the one that's out of control. healthcare. healthcare costs through the government. see that blue line? see that blue line? now, you citizens who are listening, you who want to be leaders, who want to fix the problem, you ought to say of
any budget offered by anyone, the president, this group, whomever, you ought to say take your budget, go to c.b.o., and tell us to turn this blue line down, maybe 15, 20 years out, turn it down. if it doesn't, tell them go back to the drawing board and start over. because you don't have a realistic budget. now, i won't put it up any longer. i will just say that is the case for how you solve this problem. now, that doesn't mean it's the only thing, but it's without which there is no appropriate answer, without which there can be no answer unless that is turned. everything should be on the table. i want to say that to begin with. i'm a republican, but i'm not afraid to say everything should be on the table literally, although i think when you immediately say, and therefore, revenues are on the table, people are almost jumping with
joy that you can tax people more, i'm not that kind of person in terms of new revenues, but i do believe you've got to restrain the growth of government and you have to do something about the revenue base. but you must do something about that blue line or you'll just be dumping taxes forever into a growing government, and it will go up to 25, 30, 35% of g.d.p. now, having said that, i want to say two other things quickly, and then if i don't speak any more, it's all right. i am convinced as one who's been working some 25 years, i've seen three -- some people say four balanced budget the, but at least i did three of them, and i'm proud of it, it was not with stockman. he had a magic asterisk. he balanced the budget with an asterisk. i think it was only $37 billion. now we wouldn't even bother with him now.
we thought that was truly messing with the books back then. having said that, i want to tell you, there's no question in my mind that we must convince the american people that the future of this republic is dependent upon us fixing this problem. if we don't fix it, we don't fix it, so that we have a sustainable situation in terms of measuring the amount of our gross national product that we consume. if we don't do that, we will not be the type of country we are today in 25 to 30 years. we will be a lesser light in the horizon of countries in the world. we won't be much for ourselves and there won't be a vibrant future for our children. it's not that they're going to have to pay our bills, they're going to inherit a second-rate country instead of a first-rate
country with dreams. if that isn't work, i don't know what is. so i'm getting old, but if they ask me to come, i'll bring my chart and tell you fix healthcare costs so it doesn't -- government does not have to pay that much, and the rest will fall in line. now that should tell you something, because nobody yet has submitted a budget that touches healthcare. somebody will say, what about the president? these don't make me say much about the president other than to say nobody has submitted a budget that takes care of or even comes close to touching the healthcare problem. i don't know why, but i believe , i believe they are scared to do it. i hearken back to my days -- i'll ask to you use me this way, when we had to take a vote on social security when i was chairman and everybody decided we'd like to do that, i
insisted they all vote together, and they said, what do you mean? when we say you all put up your hands together so nobody can accuse anybody of having voted first. if you voted first on that, they will run ads on you that you started all this, and therefore, you should not have your seat. it is that difficult. in other words, in other words, i invented a word where we've got to have the people together together for issues. it can't be half of them, or they have to be together and vote simultaneously so that the burden is shared, everything's on the table, the burden is shared by everyone on everything and anything. >> senator, domenici, i'm going say two things. one, you beat me on the chart issue, and i'm glad that you brought it. but i do feel bad now for
everyone else who said they couldn't bring their chart, so i'm sorry. and two, we probably don't have time, but i think everybody should look at the proposal that you and alice rivkin on the domenici-rive lynn committee put out, you put forth what i think is one of the most cutting-edge approaches to thinking about controlling the cost of healthcare in the long term. so you made the case for why it's so important. i would direct people to your report to see some of the details that you fleshed out about how to get there. >> i made a mistake in not telling you that it's done. it is in the domenici-rive lynn budget because we have a reform system. it doesn't start for a number of years, long years, but it starts and accomplishes it. >> at the committee for economic development, we've made it clear that we support savings here from the joint selection of at least $4
trillion. the committee needs to look at entitlements, it needs to look at social security. it needs to look at additional tax revenue, and also take a look at the defense and domestic portion of the budget, and wee said that if the committee and members do that, we will support them. we will work with them. we will try and bring business leaders to come in and provide i guess what the politicians like to call cover to make the tough decisions. but here's the dilemma. there's no more senator bennett in the senate. and he worked very closely with ron wide ona bipartisan effort to reform healthcare. and we worked very closely with both senator widen and senator bennett, and senator bennett lost the primary as a result of one of the early tea party actions. so i think to make all of this work, there needs to be more voices from individuals and groups who are actually helping to strengthen the backbone of
the members of congress. otherwise we're likely to see groups at the ex-team trying to pick off the very people that we need to provide a resolution. >> i would say that's logical, and history has proven that long for the last three issues we've had, where bill and i and many others deal with the healthcare issue. and yet we failed miserablely to create a backbone and cover for people to act, ointh debt ceiling, there was an enormous amount of -- everyone could say we could not walk this country off the cliff of the debt ceiling. there are very few people who say let it rip and see what happens. and yet that didn't sleep -- we've seen in other cases where there's lots of bipartisan
support. so i think it is a condition to do something, because you can't have everyone not for it. i don't think it's sufficient. i think there is a sad lesson to be learned that when people run against and you take your job away, it gets everyone's attention. >> i just want to ask my question, because i wonder if the political moment has or is changing, because i have sensed a difference over the summer. i felt like there was a difference since these commissions came out with their specific proposals. it seems like there's a difference because there pab bipartisan support for tough choices. looking at the 36 senators on the stage standing next to each other last week announcing they felt we should go big, it just seems to me like the moment may be changing. so i guess i would add that to my question about how we may help the supercommittee do their work. a gaw back to the issue of the public.
>> i think it took about two meeting toss figure out three very basic points. those three points are points that the public can understand very readily. number one, the problem is way more serious than most people think. you know, when erskine bowles talks about going off a cliff, it's there. this is not trivial. this is going to affect future generations, and as alan simpson said, it's going to affect our generation. that's the key point. the second point is, as dr. rivlin said in the previous panel, there's no escaping the fact that we need a balanced approach. we've got to do the revenue side, we've got to do the entitlement side, we've got to do spending cuts, the whole thing. the public can be made to understand this. the third thing is that in order to do that, everything does have to be on the table. those are message that is we
can convey. we did town hall meetings everywhere, and we basically said, we've got problem, we have a long-term problem. here you are wherever it was, wherever it was, and here are five or six or eight ways to increase revenues on social security, and here are ways to really adjust benefits. we want to you figure it out and tell us what you think. people didn't go storming out of the room. they basically engaged. if we can get the public to understand the three basic points and to engage, we can sway public attitude, and that in turn will have a big effect on how congress acts. >> to answer the question first of all, i think there is a big
political moment here. and in fact, congress may actually have backed into a solution, balls the fiasco over the debt ceiling created a mechanism that we've not had. the situation, the only way we could force a collective decision to make tough choices and decisions was to form what they called a panel. so this supersubcommittee similar to a brac t. gives you an up or down vote. it's a majority. people can't assume that flavor, special interest, or business are always united. i will tell you, on this one, there's an earnest approach right now going on for each business community on bipartisan, multibusiness approach to build support for
going big. currently it's not sustainable. it has to have simplifications of the tax code. i think road maps have been laid out, and the people on this supercommittee who i believe can have the courage to do this, if business and other groups recognize there is no option, that it has to be done this way and it has to be done now, and i believe we can change that momentum. >> let me pick up on that if i could, because there's a reporter covering this, there's a conspiracy theory out there that there are special interest groups who might have a vested interest in seeing the supercommittee fail because the sequesters, the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts would be less
painful for their various interests than what the supercommittee might come up with, or certainly what going big might mean. >> again, it's spent the last 15 years working in the business community, and i have not seen that conspiracy theory. there may be some small, but i think collectively, manufacturing, energy sector, high-tech, others, financial, all realize that failure is not an option, and just going at the level of the mandate from this panel is a failure, because it is -- the debt will be larger at the end of this process than they went in with. and so, in order to reverse this, we've scene the scenarios out there. we saw the downgrade of our own debt. american business households, we survive as businesses when our consumers, when our customers, when our fellow citizens thrive. and we cannot thrive with an
increasing interest rate, with the cost of doing business, with regulation and all the other issues that are facing us. we need to clean the slate and say now is the time for a fresh start, and i believe in the 30 years i've been in washington that this is one of those inflexion points for the country, and i think the politicians, when you talk to them individually, they'd say, yes, but it's only if they're involved. and you have to kind of jump off the cliff collectively. people talked about simultaneously, great word, but it means holding hands together and say, yes, it's in the collective national interest, and we'll suspend special interests or partisan, parochial interest to put the national interest first, assuming that people demonstrate the way. and i think this is the opportunity. >> a couple of nights ago i was in new york and heard former
secretary of state and treasury secretary george schulz peek at the economic club of new york. i just want to share his comments, because i don't think it's been picked up in the press. he was talking about some of the things we're talking about, and he said on a play on the famous presidential line, ask not what a congress 10 years from now will spend, ask what you will spend -- what the congress will spend this year and next year. i guess that would optimistic if i felt congress is able to do the things it's actually supposed to do every year. and so there are articles this week about whether we're going to have another shutdown chris. i'm an optimistic, and i want the congress to act big. but again, congress, which has distinguished itself with the lowest public approval rating in its history, needs to get its act together, and they need to do it before the end of september, because they can
send a signal right now without waiting till thanksgiving that they're serious about doing the basic things that they have to do every year. >> let's see if i can get you to weigh in on this special interest side of this. you served on the simpson commission. you did volt for t. -- you did vote for it. as you look out now, now that the supercommittee is meeting, you're advocating going big right now. your thoughts on the challenges that are confronting them and how they might deal with them differently than the bowles-simpson commission did. >> it was very clear, and i think even the people who had disagreements with the specifics all thought you had to go big. it was never less than a trillion dollars. it was how we're going to get to $4 trillion. i think myself and dave and jeff, paul and the president of the united states made a mistake.
you know, that was our best opportunity in a moment of history to do something. we could have probably spent a little more time making it work for all of us. but you look back now and say, you know, what were we all thinking at that time that things were going to get better? in fact, things just keep getting worse. so, to me, my recommendation is if you think it's going to get better, don't count on it. it only gets worse. and the truth is, for people like me who are very conscious about not only making a competitive economy to make sure people don't suffer, people are going to suffer a lot more if we don't solve this problem than the suffering that may occur as we solve this problem, and we should diminish the sufficienters, do who erskine bowles said, making sure the people who have the least don't get hurt the most. but the truth is the longer we wait, the worse it gets for everybody.
>> there are difficult issues. i'm not being sarcastic. it takes leadership which believes in what we're about to do and gets behind them. i told him that we thought there was an opportunity this year to finish off the budget balancing effort. republicans would support it as long as we were holding the bag on a few things like medicare. and we worked together, and it succeed that had year, because everybody leaned into the problem, democrats and republicans. there was maybe one democratic leader who lacked enthusiasm for it. the rest of us all were leaning into the problem, and the president supported us fully just as the congressional leadership did. every time we met, his first team was in the room, and they had his proxy. smfs not some sort of debate. this was an actual meeting
where decisions were made. in the end, we put together something that balanced the budget for the first time in 30 years and over the next three years. i think we paid off. >> are you as optimistic that the structure of this supercommittee, the obligations, the timeline, that this is -- >> this is more difficult, and it's tighter than that. but that's ok. they've got a chart, they've got a chart that will enable them to do many different things as opposed to one particular thing. these problems are a lot more difficult than the 198 e's and 1990e's. but this committee has a great opportunity, and i think you can do it, but supporting it. is this just kicking the can down the road? it's not going to work.
you got to make the decision. i think this problem would be insurmountable if they address it in the regular order. you've seen demonstrated over the past decade, two decades. they're not able to do it, so we've had the panel, the recommendations that took the time, and they've provided some road maps, and you can take and merge the two, domenici-rivlin, simpson-bowles, whatever. i think it's a decision of decisions and leadership. in the regular order, i don't think it would work. now, how do you do tax reform in addition to do? it's going to be a multistep approach. i think they said you can set the goal, set the parameters, put the bumper guards out there and say, committees, you have a certain time to do t. the shorter timeline, we always say
we can't write it and dot it, but they can put the parameters there and the goal, and i think the congress will force the administration to step forward and embrace something if they can see that a majority supports this and it's going to be a single vote coming before the congress. that's going to be the most historic vote other than war perhaps in the modern history. this is going to be histories i can. the business community is saying don't step up, go big, we'll get your back, and we're going to have to work together. it's not easy, so we're going to do it. i didn't think i was coming here today to listen to these people up here. because think they had much to tell me. but i will tell you right now
that i don't know you -- >> andy. >> i don't know you, andy stern. i know of you, and you are very notorious. but that only means, not negative or positive. it gist means you're damn well known. what you just said we should start with. anybody that thinks the condition of their great country is going to get better if we kill this opportunity is more than smoking pot, they are absolutely, without a mind. mr. stern just told you, if you put it off, it's going to get worse. we are in the most complicated situation anybody could ever be to try to put together an involuntary bankruptcy. it is so complex, you can't believe it. and literally, i hate to use that bad word, but things are going bad and they're going from bad to worse.
and all kinds are on the horizon, friends. you friends here and you friends listening, all kinds of things, strikes, riots, who knows what. if leadership doesn't come one solutions in the next couple of months, we are -- things are going to get worse. now, i want to tell you that from my standpoint, the members of this special commission, have to be to be sold on a proposition that is much bigger than anything they've ever been sold on. and that is, they must believe that their vote or something positive that can solve this problem -- >> you only get one time. so something solves the blue line, and they could say to themselves, it doesn't matter if i ever get elected again.
i just saved the country i love. if that can be the test, we have a shot at this. i met with one of them who invited me and somebody else to talk to them and these members, and that's how the way the meeting ended. well, if you're worried about that, i'm telling you, if they can put together the right kind of package, and i want to save the country, then i don't know if i have to keep coming back here and getting elected and running. isn't that a refreshing thought about how important this work is? and i believe that if we can get that permanent ating this commission, and i want to close by saying the most difficult thing in my mind is that the big problems that have to be solved are very long-term. mr. george schulz, i love him, but he's wrong. the issue is not year by year. the issue is 10 years. you could do almost what you
wanted in three or four years if you put in place a plan that in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth and ninth year out reformed medicare and medicaid and all the entitlement programs and reformed the tax code. if you could do that, i guarantee you that we'd be on the right path. now, my mind slipped me there, so i can't closes that thought because i'm short of memory and i forgot. >> it was very powerful. and i also to want say that, andy, i got chills when you said that, like, it is this incredibly important moment. and i hope that people listening and people who know that, and there's so many who know that and understand that, see that we have to help the supercommittee feel that we have their back, because there are so many people who are going to be pushing don't do this, don't do this. they need to hear from all the different interests about how people are actually willing to put the collective interest
ahead of the special interest and some of the things they care about on the table in order to get this done, because it is going to save the country. and if we don't, it's going to be a real problem. let me just turn to charlie because he was waiting. >> i want to follow up something that was said about the business community. i think the business community is looking for certainty and stability to come out of this process. and one of the reasons why the american public is not ready is i think they're basically confused. and if you look at what's happened over the last four years in two administrations, the republican administration and the democratic administration, you've seen tarp, a.i.g. bailouts, a takeover of g.m. and chrysler, you've seen qe-1, qe-2, you've seen a new dance of the twist coming back. wall street bhavegly behaved as if it has atrial fibrillation f. wall street is behaving that way, i believe there's some degree of consternation among
the public. this is something george schulz does address, you've got to slow this down and put in place serious policies with the right set of incentives that will correct the problem that we just lived through. as he put it, we need steady as you go with policies that are consistent with prosperity without inflation. now, he's a little bit skeptical about 10 years out, and dave, you thought we fixed medicarement i remember one of the career people at o.m.b. in 1984, after we diagnosed this related group, dave said to me in the wall, charlie, i think we've finally done it. what are you talking about? we got cost containment in medicare. this was 1984. it took about 18 months to figure out how to move stuff into outpatient services and to gain the system. so some degree of certainty on the part of this committee in the congress i think will send a very positive signal to the country and certainly to the
american public community and everyone is, of course, concerned about the $2 trillion they're sitting on that they haven't invested in and haven't produced jobs. so it's all part of the same package. let me follow up with one question. the other side of this equation, there are some here in washington who would argue $1.5 billion in deficit reduction, if the supercommittee can come up with that, which is the mandated target, that is something to build on. it is worth this supercommittee going as ordered as opposed to going big, because that will build confidence toward the future, toward something down the road. challenge that argument, or do you agree with it? >> it's completely logical, and if you're in any other place but washington, you would think that's true. that was the same thing we said about healthcare. i mean, let's just put information technology into healthcare. everybody agrees we need to
modernize our system, we never did it. you know, if we can pass children's healthcare, we can take the next step. we never did. so it's a completely logical argument that doesn't work. i just think that's the problem. and we are going to cut $1.5 trillion. it's either going to be sequestered or they're going to make a choice to do it. so what challenge is getting what you're going to get anyway? the real challenge here is solving the problem. the people in america who are sick of this issue, they don't understand all of it, but they understand that congress is not stepping up to the challenge and worrying about something more important in the long run, which happens to be how do their kids get a job? >> up to the pick up on that at all? >> no, i completely agree. as i said before, we need certainty. it's not just business consent. it's the consumer certainty. it's the public believing there's a future. and it's also foreign markets. so if we can this get this
thing done right and not do it in little incremental chunks, little doesn't apply. but if we can get it done in a way that is a major plan with, as we heard earlier, recovery built in, then we're going to have done a great thing for the country. strategic leadership has been providing this country, and it's not been done in 1,000-page tomes or reports, it's usually done in simple form by providing guidance and road map. and i think there's that opportunity here. i don't care if it was george kennedy. he didn't sit down and talk about a whole geopolitical strategy by laying out all these research studies. he said this is the direction and made a convincing argument. that's where we are today. you don't have to have it perfected. perfect is the enemy of good here, and good is maybe not enough, but what we're going to have to shoot for. and that's why we're using this term, go big, because it has to
-- 60% of g.d.p. debt ratio, that's a serious number. but you do one, you're going to be 75. in a few years, you're going to be at 100. that is not sustainable t. has to be long and multiyear. i think everyone says, the least fortunate are having a hard time. poverty rates up, joblessness is there. this cannot be draconian cuts immediately. it has to be phased in. they need to know the signal is there. and then it needs to address the big problem. i don't know about pete's chart, but if you look at where the spending is going, discretionary spending is becoming a very, very small portion of this federal budget. and it's the automatic pilot spending programs that's going to drive us into ruin. and then lastly, as a way, i think others who are as principled conservatives as you can find, when they say that
there is an opportunity to get the right thing done by putting it everything on the table, that's something that we collectively need to sit up and listen to. >> i think we have time for one question from the audience. >> thank you. i read in several articles that -- that the current congress does not have the authority to make spending and revenue decisions that bind future congresses. i'd like to know first if this is true, and if it is, what does that say about the staying power of any agreement that the supercommittee produces and has adopted by the current congress. >> that's a good question, and i think we can just go ahead and take a second question and put both of them out there. thank you. >> i don't know anybody that doesn't agree with what's been said.
i don't know anybody that would argue it's easier to get big than small. if you've been in the process at least. and when i listen to andy stern, dave, charlie talk about the urgency, i don't think anybody disagrees with that. what i have not heard is an overt public aggressive comment or commitment, rather, from business and labor to support the people that do the hard thing. we all know there's a problem. that's not the issue. we all know it's got to be done. that's not the issue. we all know we're at the edge of a cliff. that's not the problem. what i want to know is business willing to kick ass -- i'm sorry, i shouldn't say that, get serious about really actively supporting the people that gut it out. because if you don't do that and if you think they're
exposed, i don't see any of this, same thing with labor. >> ok, so are business and labor going to kick ass? >> well, i wouldn't use the term, but i think my friend john engler from business roundtable, i see other business leaders, i know that the u.s. chamber, other groups, a number of us have been having certain conversations, and i don't want to preannounce some things, but there is an effort ongoing for -- you've seen the c.e.o.'s step up, and i think that's really important, and you've seen other leaders in government and experts, i think you're going to see business associations and organizations that are -- it's very challenging to get unanimity. but we're talking about broad-based support for the approaches. i think you're going to see, from both sides of the aisle,
there's a willingness to support if they do, again, take on the real problems and try to overcome the extreme partisanship and put the national interest first, and everybody's going to have something in this game. i think it will be done, and i think you're going to see it, and i think it's strong. >> you've been a long-tell committee of the economic development, and we have said exactly that, poor going to continue to try and work with more business leaders around the country to support the elected officials who are courageous and trying to do the right thing. but let me add one other point here, and this is to business leaders who may be watching. the american public doesn't have such a high regard for the business community. the good news is it's not quite as low as members of congress, but for 10 years, the american business community has been on defense, for understandable reasons. this is a marvelous opportunity for american business leaders
to step forward and do the right thing. it's not only self-interest, and by self-interest i mean the long-term implications of the cost of capital in this country, but it's also the right thing for the country. we talked about business leaders, business statesmen at c.e.d., and that phrase comes from pete peterson, the longest serving trustee. and for years, he has been urging business to step forward and address these issues. folks, now is the time. it's your moment. it's the right thing for you, your country, and for the business community. >> i would just say just to be kind to all of us, this is a very -- this is appropriate, and i have no idea what the business community is going to do. what people want to hear is you are going to endorse me if i am going to do this. they don't want to hear we're going to support you, we love you. if you're going to support my opponent and i vote yes on this, then i'm going to get a tax on it, i'm out of here. and so i hope when we talk
about this, there's a level of sincerity of sticking with people who do it. that applies to labor just as well. because if not, supporting people is a lovely concept, it doesn't mean anything. ask senator bennett. >> there was a question about current congress. we do it all the time. cap on spending, for example. we set a cap, it gets applied to this congress, applied to the next congress. the next congress must be the majority. they leave the house to the super majority, you can adjust the cap, but it has to pass both houses, and it has to be signed by the president because it's a black letter law that has to be undone. >> i'd just like to say this with reference to support,
actually it appears to me that -- it appears to me that -- i'm very sorry. >> that's ok. >> that's all right, pete. there's going to be lots of support. this is the moment -- >> what i was going to say is that -- i think the most difficult part of this is the time, the shortness of the time given to get the job done. and you can bet that those of us who understand the nuances of a bill that's been written, namely the bill creating this committee, it obviously was created by people who really want to give this committee a lot of authority. there has never been a committee with the authority that this committee has. they can handle taxes. they can make it binding if congress adopts the package and the president signs it. they can handle entitlements.
the question is, do they have enough time to do that? and we're going to be looking to find ways to give them the maximum amount of time that is conceivable so they can get it done. lastly, i want to conclude, if, in fact, we are serious about the entitlements, as serious as we want republicans to be serious about revenues, then somebody's got to really start working on both of them, because both are terribly complicated, and they can't be done on 24-hour notice, either reforming the healthcare program or the tax code, both of which should be reformed, and the time is not terrific. it's pretty short. thanks for doing this, and i didn't tell you that when you let me put up my chart. i want to tell you now.
yes, go ahead. >> thank the sponsors, bipartisan policy center, people for responsible budget, simpson-bowles, everyone who stepped up to serve. you did a national service. as erskine bowles said, the most -- a lot of important positions, most important job they've ever had, and i think we all owe a huge debt of gratitude. >> we also owe this panel a debt of gratitude while the next panel comes up. thank you very much. >> the joint deficit reduction committee, also known as the supercommittee, meets this morning to consider changes to the tax code. live coverage begins at 10:00 on c-span3. president obama will be in cincinnati today to talk about his jobs plan. that's at 2:30 p.m. eastern. here on c-span, "washington journal" is next. live with your phone calls. that's followed by