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(979) 845-1532
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The Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy

The Bush School of Government and Public Service

Texas A&M University
4220 TAMU
College Station, Texas 77843-4220


Contact

(979) 845-1532
bushschoolmosbacher@tamu.edu

The Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy

The Bush School of Government and Public Service

Texas A&M University
4220 TAMU
College Station, Texas 77843-4220

2014 ConocoPhillips White House Lecture Series

presents

"What Will It Take to Fix the National Debt?"

Erskine B. Bowles, President Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff
Alan K. Simpson, U.S. Senator, R-Wyoming (1979-1997)


Discussion Moderated by Andrew H. Card, Jr., George W. Bush's Chief of Staff

Watch a video of the event.

View the 2014 ConocoPhillips White House Lecture Series poster



Two leading experts on the federal debt crisis spoke at the Bush School at the end of January. Alan K. Simpson, former US senator from Wyoming, and Erskine B. Bowles, White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, gave the ConocoPhillips White House Lecture, one of a series hosted by the Bush School’s Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy. Some 600 students and faculty attended the event, including President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush. Following their presentation, Andy Card, former White House chief of staff for President George W. Bush, moderated a discussion and Q&A session. Earlier in the day, the two took part in a roundtable discussion with students.

Simpson and Bowles co-chaired the 2010 National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform — an innovative, bipartisan effort to solve the national debt problem. The moderated discussion highlighted why Washington failed to adopt their solution and what can be done now to fix this ever-increasing and critical national problem.

Simpson served as senator from Wyoming from 1979-1997. Known as a conservative and an opponent of government regulation, he is also recognized as an outspoken advocate of equal rights for all citizens. Bowles is a businessman and political figure from North Carolina, who served as White House chief of staff and later as president of the University of North Carolina System. Bowles and Simpson now co-lead the Fix the Debt Coalition, a grassroots campaign that mobilizes key communities to address the nation’s fiscal challenges.

During their presentation, Bowles highlighted the five key issues the nation should address if it wants to fix the debt. These issues—healthcare, national defense, reforming the tax code, ensuring Social Security’s solvency, and addressing the interest on the debt—were included in the Commission’s plan, which the President declined to adopt. Bowles noted that the US spends twice as much as any country in the world on healthcare – per capita and as a percentage of GDP—yet ranks between twenty-fifth and fiftieth on such indicators as life expectancy, infant mortality, and others. Slowing the rate of growth in healthcare spending to that of the economy is critical to our future, as is slowing spending on national defense.

“We spend more on national security than the next seventeen countries combined and are bearing a disproportionate responsibility for global world peace. Admiral Mullins got it right – our greatest national security problem is these deficits. The deficit will consume every dollar of resources we need,” Bowles said.

The other three issues were reforming the tax code, making Social Security solvent, and addressing the amount of interest the US pays on debt. Bowles noted that life expectancy averaged sixty-three years when President Franklin Roosevelt instituted Social Security; and today, it’s seventy-nine, creating an arithmetic problem. “By the end of this decade, we will be spending more than one trillion dollars on interest on the debt. That is one trillion dollars we can’t spend to educate our kids, build infrastructure, or do high-level research on our college campuses,” Bowles said.

While Simpson and Bowles are dissatisfied with the progress towards fixing this problem, they do believe there are still measures that can be taken to alleviate some of the pressure. “We can’t grow or tax our way out of this problem, nor can we cut spending enough to get ourselves out of this problem. You have to do all of it,” Bowles said. “[With this debt], we won’t be able to compete and win in a knowledge-based global economy. It’s our generation of Republicans and Democrats who created this mess, and it’s our job to clean it up.”

During the event, Simpson and Bowles received the Good Governance Award, presented by the Mosbacher Institute. “The Good Governance Award recognizes exemplary achievements in channeling high-quality policy analysis into good governance and public service,” said Dr. Lori Taylor, director of the Mosbacher Institute, “I am particularly pleased to be recognizing the service of Senator Simpson and Mr. Bowles because their work on the Commission exemplifies the spirit of public service. During a time of fiercely partisan politics, they contributed fresh thinking and independent, nonpartisan analysis to the policy debate regarding the national debt. We are honoring their service and efforts to provide nonpartisan solutions to the nation’s fiscal imbalances.”


Event Photos

2014 ConocoPhillips White House Lecture Series
2014 ConocoPhillips White House Lecture Series
2014 ConocoPhillips White House Lecture Series

Erskine B. Bowles, President Bill Clinton's Chief of Staff

Erskine is a native North Carolinian, born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and received his MBA from Columbia University in New York. After serving as an enlisted man in the Coast Guard, Erskine began his financial service career at Morgan Stanley in New York as an associate in their corporate finance group. While at Morgan Stanley, he saw what he believed was a void in the financial services market place and left to form a middle-market investment bank. This firm, Bowles, Hollowell, Conner, became the preeminent mergers and acquisition firm in the middle market. Bowles would later go on to form a venture capital firm, Kitty Hawk Capital; co-found a middle-market private equity firm, Carousel Capital; and serve as a partner in the New York private equity firm of Forstmann Little. During Bowles’ business career, he also served on the boards of various companies including Morgan Stanley, First Union Corporation, Merck, VF, Cousins Properties, Norfolk Southern Corporation, General Motors, Belk, Urban Institute, Tri Alpha Energy and Facebook.

Erskine has also followed his father’s example of public service. In 1991, he joined the administration of President Bill Clinton as Administrator of the Small Business Administration. In 1993, he was brought to the White House to serve as President Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff and later as Chief of Staff. As Chief of Staff, he served as a member of the President’s Cabinet and on both the National Security Council and the National Economic Council. Working at the direction of the President and with the Republican House of Representatives and Senate, Bowles negotiated the first balanced budget in a generation. During his tenure in the White House, he also coordinated the Federal response to the Oklahoma City bombing. Erskine tried his hand at running for public office in 2002 and 2004. In both elections for the U.S. Senate, he won the Democratic Party nomination and lost in the general election. Later, Bowles was brought back into public service several times. In response to the terrible tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in December, 2004, Bowles was asked to join the United Nations as Deputy Special Envoy, with the rank of Under Secretary General, to coordinate the global response to the tsunami. In this regard, he once again worked with and for President Clinton. In 2010, President Barack Obama asked Bowles to co-chair with former Senator Alan Simpson the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. This bipartisan commission produced a plan to reduce the Nation’s deficits by $4 trillion over the next decade. The plan was supported by a supermajority of the commission with equal support from both Republican and Democrat members.

Mr. Bowles has also served his home State of North Carolina in numerous ways. From 2005 to 2011, Bowles served as President of the University of North Carolina. The University is composed of 17 campuses, 220,000 students, 40,000 employees and has an annual budget of approximately $8 billion. Erskine also served at Governor Jim Hunt’s request as Chairman of the NC Rural Prosperity Task Force charged with developing ways to bring economic development to rural North Carolina. He also served on the Board of the Golden Leaf Foundation and founded a private equity company to bring investment capital to rural North Carolina.

Erskine has also found time to be actively involved in not-for-profit organizations. After seeing firsthand how his two sons dealt with juvenile diabetes, Bowles threw himself into the work of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, ultimately becoming the National President of the Foundation. After seeing his father and sister deal with the effects of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Bowles and his wife raised the funds to start an ALS Center in Charlotte to provide a facility to care for all families in the Carolinas affected by this disease. Erskine has also served as Vice Chairman of Carolinas Medical Center and as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Duke Endowment.

Erskine has been married for over 40 years to Crandall Close, former Chair and CEO of Springs Industries. They have 3 grown children and 9 grandchildren. They live in Charlotte.


Alan K. Simpson, U.S. Senator, Wyoming (1979-1997)

For the past one hundred years, a steady string of Simpsons have practiced law in the sparsely populated state of Wyoming – "the land of high altitude and low multitude" as Al's Dad often phrased it! It began with Al's grandfather, William L. Simpson, and was followed by his father, Milward L. Simpson. Alan K. Simpson was the third generation lawyer in the family. Al's two sons, William L. and Colin M. Simpson carry on in the family lawyer tradition today, practicing in the town of Cody.

Alan K. Simpson was born September 2, 1931, and is a native of Cody, Wyoming. He is the second son of Milward L. and Lorna K. Simpson. His entire childhood was spent in Cody where he graduated from Cody High School. Before entering college, Al spent a postgraduate year at Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan to have a look at life outside of the Cowboy State. He then returned to begin his college career, entering the University of Wyoming in 1950 and completing his degree, a Bachelor of Science in Law, in 1954. While at the university, Al was an active member of the Student Senate, a member of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity, president of the "W" Club Lettermen's organization, and he lettered in both varsity football and basketball for the Cowboys.

Upon graduation from college, he joined the Army and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. Al was married in the summer of 1954 to the former Ann Schroll of Greybull, Wyoming and was ordered to Fort Benning, Georgia in November of that year. He served overseas in the 5th Infantry Division and in the 2nd Armored Division (Hell on Wheels) in the final months of the Army of Occupation in Germany. Following his honorable discharge in 1956, Wyoming beckoned once again and Al returned to the University of Wyoming to complete his study of law, earning his Juris Doctorate degree in 1958.

After being admitted to the Wyoming Bar and the United States District Court in 1958, and serving for a short time as Wyoming Assistant Attorney General, Al joined his father, Milward L. Simpson, and later Charles G. Kepler, in the law firm of Simpson, Kepler and Simpson in his hometown of Cody. He would practice law there for the next 18 years. During that time, Al was very active in all civic, community and state activities. He also served ten years as City Attorney.

A member of a political family ¬– his father served both as Governor of Wyoming from 1954 to 1958, and as United States Senator from Wyoming from 1962 to 1966 – Al chose to follow in his father's footsteps and began his own political career in 1964 when he was elected to the Wyoming State Legislature as a state representative of his native Park County. He served for the next 13 years in the Wyoming House of Representatives, holding the offices of Majority Whip, Majority Floor Leader and Speaker Pro-Tem. His only brother, Peter was also a member of the Student Senate at the University of Wyoming and, also served as a member of the Wyoming Legislature and served as a Vice President and professor at the University of Wyoming.

In 1978, Al ran for, and was elected to, the United States Senate. After a successful first term, he was re-elected in 1984 with 78% of the vote and then again in 1990 to a third term with 65% of the vote. Following his first term in the Senate, Al was elected by his peers to the position of the Assistant Majority Leader in 1984 – and served in that capacity until 1994. He completed his final term on January 3, 1997.

From January of 1997 until June of 2000, Al was a Visiting Lecturer and for 2 years, the Director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. During the Fall of 2000 he returned to his Alma Mater, the University of Wyoming, as a Visiting Lecturer in the Political Science Department and taught part time in teaching a class with his brother, Peter, entitled, “Wyoming’s Political Identity: Its History and Its Politics,” proving to be one of the most popular classes offered at UW.

He is also a partner in the Cody and Denver firms of Simpson, Kepler and Edwards, the Cody division of the Denver firm of Burg Simpson Eldredge, Hersh & Jardine, PC. He continues to serve on numerous non-profit Boards and travels the country giving speeches on a variety of subjects. His book published by William Morrow Company, Right in the Old Gazoo: A Lifetime of Scrapping with the Press, chronicles his personal experiences and views of the Fourth Estate. A biography by his former Chief of Staff, Donald L. Hardy, is entitled Shooting from the Lip – The Life of Senator Al Simpson.

For the past several years, Simpson has very much enjoyed his relationship with the renowned composer and conductor John Williams and has performed his suite from The Rievers (William Faulkner’s Pulitzer Prize Winning Novel) at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, the Boston Pops in Boston, Massachusetts, The Chicago Symphony in Chicago, Illinois and with the Marine Corps Band at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He has also previously narrated the Lincoln Portrait at the Grand Teton Music Festival and the Cheyenne Symphony and has also narrated Gustav Holst’s The Planets: A Symphonic Film with the Grand Teton Music Festival and also Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf with the Festival Orchestra.

Al and Ann have three children – William (Debbie), grandchildren Beth and Eric, Colin (Debbie), grandchildren Mack and Nick, Susan Gallagher (John) and grandchildren Fiona and Aidan, all who reside in Cody, Wyoming.


Contact

(979) 845-1532
bushschoolmosbacher@tamu.edu

The Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy

The Bush School of Government and Public Service

Texas A&M University
4220 TAMU
College Station, Texas 77843-4220


Contact

(979) 845-1532
bushschoolmosbacher@tamu.edu

The Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy

The Bush School of Government and Public Service

Texas A&M University
4220 TAMU
College Station, Texas 77843-4220

The Bush School of Government and Public Service
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