CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A lot of people I talk to are tired of politicians' talking points and rhetorical games about our finances.
If you're one of the people who just wants some plain talk about fixing America's finances, I hope you join me Monday at 9 a.m. at the Culture Center Theater for a back-and-forth conversation with two real straight shooters -- Republican former Sen. Alan Simpson and Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles.
As the leaders of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, they produced a truly comprehensive bipartisan blueprint for getting our fiscal house in order. And in the nearly two years since they presented their recommendations, no one has come up with a better starting point for a serious conversation about our runaway debt -- now $16 trillion and counting. That's why their blueprint is back off the shelf.
Everywhere in West Virginia -- in fact, everywhere in this country -- families gather at the kitchen table almost every day to make tough, commonsense choices about how to make ends meet. It's time for Washington to do the same. To put it bluntly -- it's time for Washington to put up or shut up.
Nobody is ready to rubberstamp every single recommendation in the Bowles-Simpson plan, not even Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. But their work gives us a solid foundation from which to work -- a sensible balance of spending cuts, new revenue and entitlement reforms that will reduce our deficits by $4 trillion over the next 10 years and start reeling in our national debt. We don't have to reinvent the wheel.
But we do have to face facts. And the most basic fact is that on every working day of the year, the federal government is spending almost $4.5 billion more -- on average -- than it is taking in. We simply can't go on that way, borrowing 40 cents for every dollar we spend, which is what we've been doing for the past dozen years.
It's hard to recall that just four presidential elections ago, the debate was about budget surpluses, not budget deficits. But that was before two major tax cuts, a new Medicare drug benefit, two wars, a Wall Street meltdown and an unprecedented government stimulus to halt the worst economic downturn in nearly a century.
How we got here is not as important as where we go from here. I want to fix the problem, not fix the blame. But to do that, Washington has to change. Frankly, we have to put politics aside, the way Americans -- and West Virginians -- have always done in times of crisis.