President Obama should push deficit reduction to the fore in his race against Mitt Romney, Bill Clinton suggested today.
"You know, I think the two plans ought to be talked about more," the former president said, interviewed onstage at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation's 2012 Fiscal Summit in Washington, D.C., by NBC's Tom Brokaw.
"The president, I think, should talk more about the Medicare savings he has proposed, and the defense cuts he has proposed, and the fact that he proposes, and this - I disagree with this, by the way - he proposes to take discretionary non-defense spending to its lowest percentage of GDP since president Eisenhower was in office," Clinton said. "We ought to be talking about this stuff. He has at least tried to honor the deal he made with the Republicans, and I think he should talk more about it, and I think they should talk more about it. …
"I think this budget issue ought to become front and center in the presidential election, in all the debates, in very specific ways," Clinton said.
The former president said he favors overhaul resembling the Simpson-Bowles plan, produced by Obama's bipartisan commission to address the deficit. Clinton suggested there should be a "big bipartisan coalition for this," in reference to centrist-deficit reforms. "We may just have to wait until the election's over. The American people are going to have to decide."
Clinton called for immediate passage of a deficit-reduction plan, triggered to take effect when the economy meets growth benchmarks.
"What I would like to see them do is what Simpson-Bowles said. Simpson-Bowles said, 'Pass our plan.' I'd like to even see them take more out of the deficit more quickly than Simpson-Bowles. But they said, 'Pass our plan, but trigger it when there is clearly growth,'" Clinton said. "Because you won't have to convince anybody to do it then, because as soon as there's real growth back in this economy, with all this public debt out there that has to be financed, interest rates will go through the roof, the cost of financing the deficit will be staggering, and the private sector will be screaming for affordable credit."
Watch C-SPAN video of Clinton's remarks here. They come within the first 15 minutes.