The two leaders of President Obama's 2010 panel on cutting the national debt, former Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, are back at it, offering a new compromise budget plan that builds on deficit reduction that's already been enacted.
But before we get into details, check out how another panel member, Alice Rivlin, is trying to shake things up with the "Harlem Shake" Internet dance sensation.
The performance by Rivlin, an economist at the Brookings Institution who also led a separate debt commission, was produced by The Can Kicks Back, a nonpartisan group aimed at organizing the millennial generation to pressure lawmakers to address the nation's growing debt. It's the same group that produced an earlier video of Simpson's interpretation of the "Gangnam Style" Internet meme.
When first reading the script for his bit, Simpson joked at a Politico event, he was unsure about references to Instagram and "tweetering." Told the performance simply required him to pretend he was riding a horse, the former Wyoming senator recalled, "I said, 'well, I can do that.' "
It hasn't been that easy for Washington to lop the $4 trillion from budget deficits that many experts recommend. Released in 2010, the Simpson-Bowles commission's package of spending cuts and new revenue fell short of the support needed to force Congress to vote on it. More than two years later, having managed to reduce deficits by only $2.7 trillion, Washington now faces the so-called sequester - $85 billion of painful spending cuts that will go into effect March 1 unless Congress and the White House find a way around it.
The compromise plan that Simpson and Bowles unveiled Tuesday at the Politico event would up the ante by replacing the sequester with an additional $2.4 trillion of savings that, added to the $2.7 deficit reduction, go well beyond the original $4 trillion goal.
One thing that's remained constant: Like their commission's 2010 package, Simpson and Bowles' new plan includes the so-called chained CPI, a new formula for cost-of-living adjustments that would slow the growth in Social Security and veterans benefits. That's something that AARP and veterans groups have been hammering as an unacceptable cut in benefits for older Americans.