Why is this important? Erskine Bowles has a long pedigree as a Democratic budget thinker — and presidential adviser. When Barack Obama needed to pick the co-chair for his deficit committee, which he roundly ignored in the end, he chose Bowles to represent his side on the panel. Bowles served as Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, and earlier ran the Small Business Administration for Clinton. Ezra Klein predicted on Friday that Bowles would be the front-runner for Tim Geithner’s job at Treasury if Obama wins a second term.
Bear in mind this while you watch this clip, found by our good friend Morgen Richmond over the weekend — the Ryan budget came as an answer of sorts to the budget recommendations from the deficit committee, on which Ryan served with Bowles. Even though this is a competing plan, Bowles in September 2011 was impressed with it and with Ryan enough to call it “sensible,” “honest,” and “serious” — although Bowles still didn’t accept it as a substitute for the panel’s:
Remember this when you start to hear the Obama campaign rip the Ryan budget as an unserious attempt to kill Medicare and allow rich people to feast on the bones of the poor. Bowles has his own issues with Ryan’s plan (which at one point in the video below he calls “radical”), but Bowles acknowledges this as a good-faith effort to fix the structural crisis in American finances. That’s more respect than Bowles gave Obama’s budget, which he noted got voted down in the Senate 97-0, and for good reason. Bowles even tweaks Obama for dishonestly attempting to evade a true comparison and for back-loading cuts in order to claim $4 trillion in reductions over 12 years.
One should not come away with the impression that Bowles supports the Ryan budget. However, it’s clear that Bowles has a great deal more respect for Ryan’s efforts than he does for Barack Obama’s.
Update: Here’s the transcript of the shorter clip, courtesy of Resist We Much in the comments:
“Have any of you met Paul Ryan? We should get him to come to the university. I’m telling you this guy is amazing, uh. I always thought that I was OK with arithmetic, but this guy can run circles around me. And, he is honest. He is straightforward. He is sincere.
And, the budget that he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, serious budget and it cut the budget deficit by $4 trillion…just like we did.
The President came out with his own plan and the President came out, as you will remember, with a budget and I don’t think anyone took that budget very seriously. Um, the Senate voted against it 97 to nothing. He, therefore, after a lot of pressure from folks like me, he came out with a new budget framework and, in the new budget framework, he cut the budget deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years. And, to be candid, this $4 trillion cut was very heavily back-end loaded. So, if you looked at it on a 10 year basis and compared apples-to-apples, it was about a $2.5 trillion cut.”