It's hard to talk about the deficit these days. At the Newseum this morning, bipartisan budget-cutters Alan Simpson, a Republican, and Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, found out just how hard.
Protesters interrupted the two as they sat onstage, being interviewed by Politico's Mike Allen before a small crowd of Beltway interest-group staffers and a smattering of news cameras at a Politico Playbook breakfast-a usually quiet (some would say stodgy) event series with newsmakers in D.C.
As the interview began, a man rose in the front row to protest their suggested cuts to entitlement programs.
"Pay your fair share of taxes," the man shouted as Newseum security escorted him out. "Pay your fair share."
"We'll bring you into the discussion," Allen told him.
After the interview resumed, three more protesters rose to interrupt the event in sequence and were removed. According to a man filming the protesters on an iPad, they are members of the liberal group Our DC, which has organized protests on Capitol Hill in the past.
Simpson and Bowles this morning released a rehashed plan to cut the deficit and reshape America's fiscal outlook. They appeared at the Politico event to promote their new proposal.
"You don't know how sweet I've been," the sometimes cantankerous Simpson said after the protests had ended. "If I was 20 years younger, I'd have been invigorated."
Playbook breakfasts are as polite and Beltwayish as it gets. Washington lobbying types gather to hear about political and policy issues while balancing small plates of fruit on their knees, quietly networking before and after. That protests interrupted such an event proves how contentious entitlement cuts can be.
Simpson and Bowles's original deficit plan, released in December 2010, called for reforms to Social Security and Medicare. So does their new proposal.
Simpson lamented that whatever he and Bowles propose, he thinks they'll be attacked. He suggested that faux "racism" has become part of the budget debate. (Three of the four protesters were black.)
"Forget all the fear, guilt, crap, racism that goes into this and use your brain," Simpson said.