Don't Mess with Debt Ceiling to Force Spending Cuts: Bowles
The deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" was a "missed opportunity" but politicians shouldn't use the debt-ceiling debate to force greater spending cuts and entitlement reform, Erskine Bowles, co-chair of President Barack Obama's 2010 debt commission, told CNBC on Friday.
"This was a magic moment to do something really big about our long-term fiscal problems," Bowles said in a "Closing Bell" interview.
Although the economy averted draconian tax hikes and spending cuts that would have caused "some real devastation," the former Clinton administration official said the $625 billion in additional revenues from the deal is only a start to solving the country's fiscal problems.
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"We've talked about revenue a lot in the last several months," he said, "but we haven't talked nearly enough about reducing the cost of entitlements, slowing the rate of growth of health care to the rate of growth the economy, making Social Security sustainably solvent, really stabilizing the debt so we can put it on a downward path as a percent of GDP."
Although Bowles said spending and entitlement reform are needed to fix the country's long-term debt problem, he pushed back against using the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip in the negotiations.
"I hope to high heaven these guys don't mess around with the full faith and credit of the U.S. government," he said. "Using the debt ceiling is the wrong place to draw the line in the sand."
Instead, Bowles said the end of the sequester in two months and the end of the continuing resolution where the government could shut down are better levers to pull to force the administration and Congress to "take some responsible action."
While President Obama has been reluctant to cut spending and reform entitlements, he has proposed $375 billion in cuts over the next decade. But that doesn't go nearly far enough, Bowles said.
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Bowles and his co-chair on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Alan Simpson crafted the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan, which called for $3 trillion in spending cuts.
"We've got to have at least that amount of cuts to put our fiscal house in order," he told CNBC.