By Samuel Burke, CNN
One of the two former senators behind the Simpson-Bowles Commission says he has “no idea” whether President Obama and the U.S. Congress will strike a deal before automatic spending cuts and tax hikes take effect on New Year’s Day.
“These guys dug their own pit when they made their deal,” former Republican Senator Alan Simpson told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday. “They thought no one will be stupid enough to let this happen. Well, don't bet the ranch.”
Some economists say that going over the fiscal cliff would send the U.S. economy back into a recession and cause unemployment to soar. At the same time, others, including Nobel-Prize winner Paul Krugman, are beginning to urge Obama not to extend his hand too far.
But will U.S. leaders really allow such a sudden change to U.S. fiscal policy?
“I have no idea. But I can tell you this: there are Democrat leaders and Republican leaders who believe that letting it go over the fiscal cliff will be to their party's advantage. Believe that or not. That, to me, is stupefying,” Simpon said.
The argument over raising some taxes, Simpson believes, would be moot if leaders just focused on earmarks.
“Go back and look at our report. We got rid of $1.1 billion bucks’ worth of tax expenditures, which are just spending by any other name or earmarks. You call them whatever you wish. And we said, dump those and then we'll give you what you've been crying for.”
Simpson is still calling on leaders to go back and use the Simpson-Bowles plan as a framework to find a deal.
“Take another look at what we're doing,” he said. “There's no new ground to plow, no new things to find. Look, all you have to do to stop this horrendous thing is get people on a plan. You don't even have to go to legislation. We've put legislation in front of them, said, there. You get groaning and bitching that you didn't have it. Now you've got it.”
Simpson acknowledged that President Obama has a mandate because of his reelection, but said that places an even heavier onus on him to lead.
“You’ve got to be a leader. And to be a leader, you’ve got to take a lot of crap. So get in the game and take some flak.”