ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Deficit hawk Erskine Bowles, who chaired President Barack Obama's deficit commission three years ago, said Monday that Obama's recent budget plan offers the "seeds of hope" for a Washington budget deal.
Bowles said Obama's budget is a "substantial step forward" because the president takes on Democratic sacred cows like Social Security with a plan to curb the annual cost-of-living benefit increases of the program.
But Bowles, author of a painful 2010 deficit plan mostly shunned by Obama, says he's coming out with a new plan on Friday with deeper cuts to Medicare and the Pentagon than Obama is proposing. Despite his praise for Obama, Bowles said the administration's plan doesn't go far enough to curb the growth of the government's debt.
Bowles said his new plan would propose cutting the deficit by $2.5 trillion over the coming decade. Obama's plan claims $1.8 trillion in deficit cuts. Since Republicans reclaimed the House in 2011, Obama has signed $2.7 trillion or so in deficit curbs over 10 years, most of which have come by clamping down on the annual growth of the agency budgets passed by Congress each year.
He said he would propose about $600 billion in increased taxes on top of the $600 billion-plus signed by Obama in January, another $600 billion or so in cuts to Medicare and deeper cuts to domestic agencies and the Pentagon than proposed by the president. He said it's crucial to get the government's debt below 70 percent of the size of the economy, something that Obama's budget fails to do.
Bowles was sharply critical of the recent budget plans of both Republicans controlling the House and Democrats in charge of the Senate, which he said did nothing to promote compromise in a capital in which the parties share power.
"We've got to make the hard political choices," Bowles said in remarks to the annual meeting of The Associated Press. "If we don't, our country is well on the way to becoming a second-rate power."