U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson Shares ‘The Moment of Truth’

As members of the new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction of the U.S. House and Senate meet to consider ways to slash the federal deficit, they’ll likely look to the work of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which last year recommended ways to cut federal spending.

Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who co-chaired that commission with former Sen. Erskine Bowles, told Capitol Ideas last winter that states should be prepared for major changes if the federal government is to get its fiscal house in order. Simpson will offer the fiscal keynote during The Council of State Governments National Conference and North American Summit.

“(State officials) need to know the great milk cow in the sky dropped dead and that it’s over,” Simpson said in an interview for the March/April Capitol Ideas. “If they’re waiting for the next injection of some kind of funding from the feds to get the states propped up, … they probably saw the last one go by with the last compromise, which added almost $1 trillion bucks to the deficit without any reduction in spending.”

The new deficit reduction committee is looking at spending across the board. In fact, if the bipartisan committee can’t reach agreement, a series of cuts in everything from social programs to defense will take effect early next year. That’s part of the “sequestration” rule included in the debt deal reached earlier this month.

Simpson told Newsweek the debt-ceiling deal is a start, “and that’s all you can charitably say.

“It really doesn’t get to the big numbers. It doesn’t get to the big spending issues. It doesn’t get into Medicare, which is on automatic pilot, which is going to eat through the whole budget. It doesn’t get into Social Security solvency. Defense is not sacrosanct,” he told Newsweek. “For heaven’s sake, we found enough fat in there that would choke a horse.”

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform’s report, “The Moment of Truth,” said, “by 2025 revenue will be able to finance only interest payments, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Every other federal government activity—from national defense and homeland security to transportation and energy--will have to be paid for with borrowed money. ... Interest on the debt could rise to nearly $1 trillion by 2020.”