[audio:http://www.johndavisconsulting.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/JDPR-Beatings-Will-Continue.mp3|titles=JDPR Beatings Will Continue] Post: August 4, 2011 Vol. IV, No. 19 “We’ve earned the threat of a downgrade. If we don’t make significant changes in the way we operate; if we don’t cut spending on entitlements, if we don’t make real cuts in defense spending, if we don’t reform the tax code, then we
Post: August 4, 2011 Vol. IV, No. 19
“We’ve earned the threat of a downgrade. If we don’t make significant changes in the way we operate; if we don’t cut spending on entitlements, if we don’t make real cuts in defense spending, if we don’t reform the tax code, then we are definitely on our way to becoming a second rate world power.”
Erskine Bowles, Telephone Interview, 8/4/2011
Co-chairman of President Obama’s Debt & Deficit Commission;
former Chief of Staff to President Clinton and President of the UNC System
Interview with Erskine Bowles, Co-chair of President Obama’s Debt & Deficit Commission, on when we can expect to see those Now Hiring signs
I called Erskine Bowles yesterday to get his take on when we can expect businesses to dust off and hang those Now Hiring signs in light of the signing of the debt limit deal. “When we get the confidence up,” he said, “Small business can’t grow … can’t create jobs … without money. We’ve got to get banks back in the business of lending money,” adding, “A big part of it is truly this whole confidence factor.”
With ongoing concern about a downgrade of the nation’s AAA credit rating still lurking in the shadows and chilling the private sector’s “confidence factor,” I asked, “When are we going to get beyond the threat of a potential downgrade?”
“We’ve earned the threat of a downgrade,” he replied, “And if we don’t make significant changes in the way we operate; if we don’t cut spending on entitlements, if we don’t make real cuts in defense spending, if we don’t reform the tax code, then we are definitely on our way to becoming a second rate world power.”
That’s when it hit me. What Bowles was saying was that the agony and ugliness of the debate in Washington D.C. over raising the debt ceiling was merely a beginning … a first step. “You can’t finish what you don’t start,” he said, “That’s why I’m a bit optimistic; we’ve taken the first step.”
In other words, what Bowles was saying was that the beatings will continue (more uncompromising debate by liberal and conservative recalcitrant extremists) until the morale improves (consumer and investor confidence), and the morale will improve (consumer and investor confidence) only after a diet of distasteful peas and “Satan sandwiches” (more painful cuts in programs and services; tax reform that includes added revenue).
“I’m so proud of you son … but don’t mess with my Medicare.”
Erskine Bowles returned my call yesterday from a taxicab in New York City. He had been in Vancouver the night before, speaking to an audience of business leaders from around the US. “I told those folks last night in Vancouver that the problem is real, the solutions are all painful, there is no easy way out … but we have to take it.”
Then he chuckled a bit and said, “The American people are like my momma. She’s 91 years old; she lives there in Greensboro. She tells me how proud she is of the work I’m doing for the country; she reminds me that my daddy was a fiscal conservative. And then she adds, ‘but don’t mess with my Medicare.’”
We both got a good laugh, and then returned to the serious issue of the national economic crisis.
It’s time to “eat our peas” … and our “Satan Sandwiches”
Throughout the debt ceiling debate, President Obama pushed for a larger deal in the $4 trillion range that included cuts and reforms in programs and services, including the Pentagon, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. He also advocated an increase in revenues coupled with tax reform that targeted the wealthiest Americans and corporations.
In mid-July, at a White House press conference, Obama reminded Republicans of the need for a big deal. "I've been hearing from my Republican friends for some time it is a moral imperative to tackle our debt and deficits in a serious way," Mr. Obama said. "What I've said to them is, let's go." Then he added, "We might as well do it now; pull off the band aid. Eat our peas."
If accepting a bigger bipartisan debt ceiling deal was analogous to eating peas for some, the smaller bipartisan debt ceiling deal was much more distasteful for others. Representative Emanuel Cleaver, II, D-Missouri, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, described the debt ceiling bill as a “Satan sandwich.” “This is a Satan sandwich. There’s no question about it,” Cleaver said, “because there’s nothing inside this sandwich that the major religions of the world will say deals with protection for the poor, the widows, the children. It’s not in here.”
Call it what you will, but there is near-universal consensus today that the nation is at risk of going into default and becoming a second-rate world power unless everyone accepts the premise that “… the solutions are all painful, there is no easy way out … but we have to take it.”
The Tea Party forced a nation in denial to accept the consequences of sovereign debt, but must now end their own denial of the necessity of new revenue as a critical part of the shared sacrifice that is to become the remedy for recovery.
You’ve got to give it to them folks. The Tea Party has forced a nation in denial to see the negative consequences of sacred cow budgeting and unchecked borrowing. It took them six years of relentless rebellion to finally get the entire nation and all of its leaders … conservatives and liberals … to agree that the economic crisis could bring down our nation.
The Great Tea Party Rebellion of the 21st Century wrecked Republicans in 2006 and 2008, emasculated members of Congress at Town Halls in 2009, demolished Democrats in 2010, and leveled the leadership in the debt ceiling debate of 2011 … but it may crumble under the weight of callous recalcitrance in 2012.
In April 2008, Barack Obama alienated tens of millions of middle-income Americans frustrated over the government’s role in economic hard times with this statement at a San Francisco fundraiser: “It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
What President Obama now knows is that they were “bitter” about leaders who said one thing and did another on economic issues … such as jobs and the stifling cost of government. They were “bitter” about Republicans who disappointed them time and again with their pork barrel spending and deficit spending. They were “bitter” about out-of-control growth of national indebtedness to foreign powers and the lack of political courage by Democrats and Republicans to take on structural deficiencies with entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Obama knows that his poor judgment in dismissing the “bitter” and putting his priorities ahead of the priorities of the voters cost the Democratic Party dearly throughout the nation in 2009 and 2011, and cost him personally in the loss of respect and support for his leadership.
If the Tea Party makes the same mistake, putting their priorities on revenues ahead of the priorities of the voters … jobs and sovereign economic stability … then they will suffer the same loss of respect and support as the President and the Democratic Party have had to face.
“I’m about to enter the tunnel,” Bowles said from his taxicab in New York City yesterday, “so I’ll talk to you later.” Although the conversation ended, I was keenly aware that the debate of the past few months was just a first step … just the beginning of the conversation that we must continue as a nation; just the beginning of a diet of “peas” and “Satan sandwiches;” a diet of sacrifices that we all must make … including the Tea Party … to restore the morale and confidence of consumers to spend again and investors to lend again and business to dust off those Now Hiring signs and hire again. May God bless the United States of America.
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