Pittsburgh Speaker’s Blog Post
I attended the Pittsburgh Speaker’s Series lecture featuring Erskine Bowles at Heinz Hall. Erskine Bowles was one of President Obama’s co-chairs for the bi-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, commonly referred to as Bowles-Simpson. In addition, he was the White House Chief of Staff for President Clinton and administrator of the Small Business Administration. Bowles spoke about his fiscal plan to reduce the national debt and intended to gather support for his proposal.
The Bowles-Simpson proposal was a model of how the deficit could be reduced if the government were not bound by the various promises, interest groups and political constraints of the Democratic and Republican parties. One of Bowles’ major elements of the plan is a comprehensive tax reform. The plan suggests sharply reducing tax rates by simplifying the tax code and cutting out the majority of the tax breaks/credits. This would reform corporate taxes to make America more competitive and cap tax revenue to avoid excessive taxation. Furthermore, it was suggested to increase the retirement age by a year, with the exception of a hardship provision for those who work in manual labor. Although this is not a popular notion, it may be necessary to improve the country’s financial standing. A significant positive consequence of the tax reform and increased retirement age is it ensures the solvency of social security for the next 75 years and reduces poverty among seniors. This would benefit the majority of people in America, either by allowing them to sleep well at night because they know the elderly have financial help or by directly helping those who cannot help themselves.
Erskine Bowles is a stimulating public speaker. The delivery of his presentation was flawless. Although he was well rehearsed, his speech seemed so natural. He made jokes throughout the speech to lighten the mood; he even made a Bill Clinton impersonation in his closing. I found the content of his speech thought-provoking. He emphasized that the only way for “America to dig itself out of debt is for the people to pressure the lawmakers to do the right thing.”