Mitchell Reports | February 20, 2013
>>> one of the nation's leading budget experts says that it's still possible to revive that grand bargain, the real budget deal, if politicians would only stop playing the blame game. joining me now, alice rivlin , the founding director of the cbo and former omb director, also a former member of the fed, former vice chair of the fed. you've done it all. well, alice, why do you have some optimism that there is still a chance to do something significant about the budget?
>> i can't believe we're going to be stupid enough not to. i think that's the main reason. everybody who is involved understands that what has to happen is to get our debt under control, not immediately, not too fast. we shouldn't do this dumb sequester thing, but we should get the party's back to the bargaining table and say how are we going to stabilize our debt so it isn't growing faster than our economy can grow. that means entitlement reform. it means tax reform . everybody knows that. and we've got to get back to it.
>> the president said that he's in favor of entitlement reform. he has been specific about dealing with medicare and some aspects of retirement, but has he been specific enough? i'm going to ask you about taxes in a minute, but from the president and the white house 's perspective, as he put enough out there on the table to reel in the republicans and get them to negotiate seriously?
>> well, i hope so. he's put some things on the table that his own troops didn't like, which is absolutely necessary. he had to do that to show that he was serious. one thing is the reform of the consumer price index , which is really a technical adjustment, but it would mean slightly lower social security benefits and other benefits going forward. now, you could offset that with other changes in the law, but it is the right thing to do. and his own troops were kind of unhappy about that, but he put it out there and he has certainly put medicare adjustments of various sorts on the table. the table that matters is the one that they will actually be negotiating around, and they've got to both get there and then cut a deal.
>> what do you say to republicans who say we did revenue last time to avoid the last deadline and we're not revisiting that and that's what the republicans say?
>> i think they are wrong, because since we started into this effort to contain the debt, we have done a large piece of spending reduction. the budget control act of august '11, you remember that, that froze discretionary spending for ten years. that picked up a trillion dollars or so over the ten years. that's not small change . and in addition to that, the various continuing resolutions have cut discretionary spending . so, it's not the problem. the problem is the entitlements and taxes. so, that's what they ought to be talking about.
>> what do you think of simpson/bowles revisited this slightly scaled back plan they unveiled yesterday?
>> it's the right idea. they are saying exactly what i'm saying, get back to the bargaining table and work on the things that are driving the debt in the future, which is the aging of the population, the fact that health care costs have been going up rapidly. we need to slow the growth of the health care spending, and we're going to need some more revenue from a reformed tax system . that's what i'm saying, that's what they are saying.
>> alice rivlin , it's always a pleasure. thank you very much for visiting us.
>> thank you.