PORTLAND – I’ve come to Maine every year since I was a boy. This coming week’s trip is special for me because I get to visit with a man I truly admire: Gov. Angus King.

Angus and I will speak in a town hall meeting Sunday about an issue we both believe to be critical — the need for our nation to put our fiscal house in order.

Gov. King and I share the concern that the fiscal path our nation is on is simply not sustainable, that these trillion-dollar annual deficits are like a cancer that will destroy our country from within.

I believe that if we don’t elect people like Angus King to the United States Senate — men and women who are willing to face up to this growing problem and put politics aside and pull together, not apart — we will face the most predictable economic crisis in history. Fortunately, it is also the most avoidable crisis in history.

Last year, every dollar of revenue the nation took in was spent on our mandatory expenditures and interest on the debt. Our mandatory spending is made up principally of our spending on entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

That means that every dollar we spent last year on two wars, national security, homeland security, education, infrastructure and research was borrowed and half of it was borrowed from foreign countries.


That is crazy; it’s nuts. It is a formula for failure in anyone’s book.

This is not a problem that we can solely grow our way out of. It’s not a problem we can solely tax our way out of, and it’s also not a problem we can solely cut our way out of without making cuts that disrupt our very fragile economic recovery; hurt the truly disadvantaged, and cut education, infrastructure and research so deeply that we will not, as a nation, be able to compete effectively for the jobs of the future in this new knowledge-based global economy.

That’s why our commission proposed a reasonable, responsible bipartisan plan that would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade. Four trillion dollars is the minimum amount we need to reduce the deficits over the next decade in order to stabilize the debt and keep it on a downward path as a percentage of gross domestic product.

We got a majority of Republicans, a majority of Democrats and a supermajority of our commission to vote for this plan.

The diversity of viewpoints that voted yes was truly uplifting. Of the six sitting U.S. senators on our commission, five voted yes: all three Republicans and two out of the three Democrats. We got yes votes from senators as conservative as Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and as liberal as Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

While none of them agreed with every position in our commission’s plan, they voted yes because they knew this is something we had to do for our country; they knew it was the right thing to do, the responsible thing to do.


Angus King, as an independent, is in a unique position to bridge the partisan divide and negotiate a solution to the debt crisis. Fixing the budget deficit is, after all, a major priority of Gov. King’s and a cornerstone of his campaign.

He understands that compromise is imperative to political progress and is committed to pulling politicians together, rather than apart, in the interest of America’s future.

While I do not expect King to agree with every aspect of our proposal, he recognizes that it provides the necessary framework for debt relief. Instead of continuing the trend of inaction and allowing pressing legislation to simply gather dust in Washington, King will demand that our leaders step up to this challenge.

He will make the tough choices necessary, as he did as governor, to achieve long-term fiscal responsibility and reform for our country, for our children, for our grandchildren and for all of us.

Erskine Bowles was chief of staff for President Clinton and along with former Sen. Alan K. Simpson, R-Wyo., co-chaired the President’s Bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.


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