Take a look at Fareed Zakaria's interview with one of the men behind the Simpson-Bowles plan, Alan Simpson. The former Republican Senator from Wyoming examines the GOP presidential contenders, and what Washington needs to do about the deficit.
FAREED ZAKARIA: Do you think that Mitt Romney has now wrapped up the nomination for all intent and purposes?
ALAN SIMPSON: I think that's very possible because they've washed all the laundry of his that they could ever find. Now they're going to start washing the laundry of Rick Santorum, who has not had his laundry washed yet.
Every one that rose to the top here has suddenly created a great deal of investigation and examination and Rick Santorum has never had that. And when they got it, the others, who have fallen, all capable people when they got it, they all dropped.
So Romney has had his thoroughly strung on the line and has survived. And now they're going to start dragging the laundry out on Santorum and stringing it up on the line and there will be some tough stuff in there, controversial stuff, abortion, homosexuality, those flash words and earmarks and all that stuff. Bam, bam, here we go.
ZAKARIA: What do you think it says, though, about the party that it seems to have been tried desperately to fall in love with everyone but Mitt Romney?
SIMPSON: I don't know. It's a strange thing. I think that he is a very effective man. And I think the reason they keep coming back to him regardless of the, quote, "flaws," they attribute to him is that he's the only guy that ever met a payroll.
He's the only guy that ever took over a failed organization filled with corruption and disunity and dysfunctional, like the Congress, and put it back together and then taken businesses which were on the ropes. Somebody said, yes, but he killed - he got rid of all these people. I said, well, you've got two choices when you take over a failed business - let it fail and everybody is out of work or take it over and hire half of them back, start paying the shareholders and get cracking.
That's what he did.
ZAKARIA: So you endorse him?
SIMPSON: I haven't done that yet because I feel that I've irritated everyone in the United States and they wouldn't want the curse visited upon them, you know, because with the - what Erskine and I have done, in 67 pages, has effectively POed everyone in America, especially the powerful howling groups like the AARP and Grover Norquist, and oh, name them, you know, man, oh, man.
It's been fun, though. I love it.
ZAKARIA: One more question on the politics, before we get to the debt issue. What does it say about the Tea Party, though? This was the great vaunted new element in the Republican Party. And at the end of the day, it seems like the Republican Party is, as it always does, is nominating the frontrunner, the guy who's waited in line, the guy who's run before. And, you know, that fairly traditional, hierarchical dynamic is at work. The Tea Party wasn't able to change it at all.
SIMPSON: Well, Republicans give each other the saliva test of purity. They like to give the saliva test of purity and then they lose and then they just bitch for four years. It's an amazing party.
And I've watched it with some trepidation, but honestly, if that's what they are going to do again, this guy is not pure enough, he's not conservative enough, he's too liberal, well, then the Obama is a walk-in. And they know it. They're having a lot of fun watching this or-gy.
ZAKARIA: So, you know, one of the central moments in the Republican debates, the candidates were asked, if you get $10 of spending cuts for $1 of tax increases, would you take it?
And not one of them took it. I take it your view is that this is fantasy, that there is simply no way to deal with the budget without raising taxes.
SIMPSON: It's dream world. And I couldn't believe it when I watched that, when they asked that question and nine hands just shot up like robots.
And I thought, how can you get there?
Now, you don't have to raise taxes, which, of course, makes Grover froth at the mouth, and all his minions. You just go into the tax code and you say let's get rid of these tax expenditures. They are one trillion, one-hundred billion a year.
The home mortgage interest deduction, a million bucks? Second homes? No, we said get it down to $500,000 then give a 12.5 percent non-refundable tax credit. That helps the little guy everybody talks about.
Charitable deduction, give a 12.5 percent non-refundable tax credit and then go in and look at the rest of the stuff. You won't believe what's in there - parking for employees, Blue Cross, insurance, oil and gas. You know, I've trampled on my own sacred cows to do that pitch.
But you have to - it has to be self-sacrifice and know that this country is going broke.
ZAKARIA: Are you resigned to the fact that nothing is likely to happen on your proposal and the ideas around it until the election? Or do you think that there's still a possibility, in the next year, something can happen?
SIMPSON: We'll see what happens. But every day that goes by, this is like a stink bomb in a garden party. And as they're eating their tea cookies and saying nothing is going to happen in America, this odor is coming out from under the table because you can't get there by doing waste, fraud and abuse, foreign aid, earmarks, Nancy Pelosi's airplane, Air Force One, all Congressional pensions. Give it up. That's about 4 or 5 percent of what we're in.
You have to go deal with Medicare, Medicaid, the solvency of Social Security and defense. And if you can't raise the retirement age to 68 by the year 2050 without the AARP losing their marbles and Grover slavering at the mouth on every kind of thing you talk about, calling it a tax increase, we won't make it.
If that's the kind of powers out there and making a dysfunctional government, why, pull up your shorts and start running for the exit.
ZAKARIA: Senator, when I was growing up and coming of age, I remember you were thought of as a pretty conservative guy. I mean you were representing Wyoming, after all. And to listen to you now, you sound like a moderate. Have you changed or has the Republican Party changed?
SIMPSON: Well, I think the Republican Party changed. But where - where - what happened with me is, I always felt that abortion is a hideous and terrible thing.
Let's all admit that. But it's a deeply intimate and personal decision. Here's a party that believes in government out of your lives, the precious right of privacy and the right to be left alone. Well, then what are you doing in this issue? Partial birth abortion is not an emotional issue, it's a medical issue. It's to free the birth canal for a - hopefully, a later child. I mean it’s madness.
Gay-lesbian issues, we all have someone we know or love who's gay or lesbian. What the hell is this all about? Madness. And if we're going to get trapped in that we're headed for some more strife.
ZAKARIA: Senator, a real pleasure to have you on. I hope we can have you on again.
SIMPSON: Well, I hope you'll stick around, because you speak with clarity and you - and you ask great questions and you don't get caught up in all the garbage on the extreme right and extreme left. People - Erskine and I go around the country and we can speak to any group, right or left. Give us an hour, let them ask questions. We'll get a standing ovation because people are thirsting for somebody to give them something other than BS or mush.
And both parties are giving the - giving the American people BS and mush. And they're sick of it. And something is going to happen. I don't know what it is, but people are smarter than their politicians.
They always have been. And we'll see what happens.