Election 2012 Vocab! Part I: Simpson-Bowles

You guys all have your absentee ballots, right? If not, get on that, ASAP. But for those of you who are ready to cast your ballots in a moth, we’d like to welcome you to vote well, and be well. In the quest of being informed voters–and how much more well can you really get than that?–we’re starting a series explaining the economic, healthcare, and policy terms that are central to this election. It’s like flashcards, only more fun.

Here’s our first buzzword:


Definition (shorthand): An economic recovery plan put forward in 2010 by a bipartisan committee headed by former Republican senator Alan Simpson and Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles.

Why do we need something like this?: You know the complete economic snorfstorm we’ve been in since 2008? It’s for that.

What are some of the plan’s main tenets?

  • $200 billion in spending cuts per year (including defense and federal employees)
  • $100 billion in revenue increase through tax hikes and closed deductions (no more writing off certain things on your taxes)
  • Raise retirement age to get Social Security benefits
  • Reduce subsidies for student loans (among other things)

Notable Committee Members: Paul Ryan, aka the Ry-Guy (let’s make this nickname happen).

What happened to it?: It didn’t pass through Congress, and Obama kind of bailed on it afterwards.

Why did that happen?: Democrats thought the spending cuts were too severe and irresponsible, and Republicans were reluctant to raise taxes.

Did anybody like it?: Yes! First off, John McCain. David Brooks. Also, Andrew Sullivan. Basically, a lot of people who might identify as centrist, or ever-so slightly right-leaning–not necessarily socially, but in terms of financial conservatism.

But a lot of people hated it, right?: Yep. Especially the far lefties. Most recent example: Chuck Schumer.

Where you have heard it: At the presidential debates! Remember when Romney was all “Obama, why didn’t you grab Simpson-Bowles???” and then Jim Lehrer asked him if he himself supported Simpson-Bowles, and then Romney was like, “Well, I’m kind of doing my own thing over here…”

Why should you care?: Here, listen to the Washington Post, they’ll explain it to you:

Here’s what it boils down to: Romney is using Simpson-Bowles to charge that Obama has not taken sufficient action on the nation’s debt. Obama, meanwhile has been arguing that Romney is unwilling to adopt a balanced approach to reducing the deficit. He has noted that that during a Republican debate, Romney rejected even a 10-1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases (which is more one-sided than than the 3-1 Simpson-Bowles proposal).


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