Past Commissions’ Difficulties Could Mean Trouble for President Obama’s Debt Commission
Washington, D.C. — The “Defeat the Debt” campaign, a project of the Employment Policies Institute (EPI), today released an analysis of recent presidential commissions. It raises questions about the ability of President Obama’s commission to tackle our $1.4 trillion budget deficit.
“While the goals of this debt commission are laudable, I am skeptical that the administration and Congress will act on their recommendations in a substantial manner,” said Rick Berman, Executive Director of EPI. “This debt commission was created because Congress doesn’t have the political will to confront the entitlement programs driving our national debt.”
The last two presidents have also appointed commissions to address growth in entitlement spending. EPI found that the results were unimpressive:
- 1995: President Clinton’s Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform — a 32-member bipartisan panel tasked with creating a plan to control the growth of programs like Medicare and Social Security — couldn’t reach a consensus solution. The commission didn’t offer official recommendations, simply concluding that “the present trend is not sustainable.”
- 1997: President Clinton’s 13-member commission on Social Security released three separate proposals on reforming the entitlement program. Congress failed to act on any of the proposals.
- 2001: President Bush’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security reached an agreement on broad principles of reform, but failed to reach a consensus on a particular plan. Three alternatives were released, one of which President Bush embraced in 2005. This “privatization” campaign was roundly rejected by Congress and the public.
“Our country can’t afford another powerless commission that takes a long time to produce a widely-ignored report,” said Berman. “If Congress and this administration are serious about cutting the debt, the solution is simple — stop spending money that we don’t have. Now. It’s easy — Just say ‘NO.’”
EPI’s “Defeat the Debt” campaign aims to highlight the threat posed by unsustainable borrowing and spending by the federal government. The campaign includes a national television commercial, which has aired on CNN, Fox News, CNBC, and — most recently — in the Washington, DC area during the Super Bowl. In January, EPI placed two adjoining billboards in New York’s Times Square, featuring a bedraggled Uncle Sam begging for $12 trillion from taxpayers.
For more information or to arrange an interview please call Sarah Longwell at 202-463-7650
The Employment Policies Institute is a nonprofit research organization dedicated to studying public policy issues that affect the American economy.