Fiscal Commission co-chairs Alan Simpson (L) and Erskine Bowles. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
That day in July 2012 was probably the last point at which Simpson, a long-retired Republican senator, and Bowles, a twice-defeated Democratic Senate candidate who now serves on the board of Morgan Stanley, found significant support for their initiative. As they and their CEO constituency -- led by Pete Peterson, Richard Nixon's free-spending former commerce secretary -- ramp up phony "grassroots" campaigning to hack away at Social Security, there will be much talk about how Americans want Congress to "rise above" partisan differences and implement austerity. Indeed, Fix the Debt's favorite claim is that voters are ready to do what the politicians are not.
But that's not true. Voters are all for balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility, but they have no taste for an austerity agenda that benefits billionaires and burdens working families. As he and Bowles waded into the electoral fray last fall on behalf of candidates who embraced their approach, Simpson declared, "We love combat. And we appreciate people who appreciate what we did." But voters showed, in no uncertain terms, that there was not enough appreciation to elect those candidates.