Erskine Bowles: I Didn't Tweak the President

That's what the co-chairman of the president’s deficit commission told me today when I asked him about his quote in the Wall Street Journal: “I told people in the White House I had spent more time listening to people in the opposition party than they had done as a whole group.”

“Well, I don’t think I tweaked him. What I said is the only way you find out where people are is to spend literally hours and hours, months and months listening to them and to try to find that common ground, trying to build up trust and that is what we tried to do,” Erskine Bowles said on “GMA.”

At the same time the commission released its draft recommendations Congress is considering an extension to the Bush era tax cuts which would cost around $4 trillion over 10 years– the same amount the commission was tasked with cutting from our deficit. But Bowles said the panel’s proposals would reduce the deficit and cuts taxes in a more responsible manner.

“What we are proposing is to wipe out a whole bunch of these tax expenditures. Then we will be able to broaden the base, simplify the code, actually bring rates down and reduce the deficit,” he said. “We can take rates down to 8, 14 and 23 and take $100 billion a year to reduce the deficit. I think that is kind of smart economics as opposed to what they are talking about today.”

The University of North Carolina president called our nation’s rising debt a “cancer” that would “destroy our country.” Bowles and his co-chair Republican Alan Simpson are the only two of the 18 member panel to sign onto the proposals which include raising the social security retirement age, cuts to discretionary spending, and a reduction in popular tax cuts.

Bowles said he is “hopeful” that others will join.

“What we are trying to do is to listen to other people’s ideas, to see how we can improve this package. The president asked us to get a deficit to GDP ratio down to 3% by 2015 and then to address these long term imbalances,” he said. “We’ve gotten lots of cooperation. We have spent months and months listening to people on both sides of the aisle. That is the way you build up trust and you find compromise and you find a way to really solve what is a very very difficult problem.”

-- George Stephanopoulos

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