Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles

Simpson and BowlesThe event was billed as “Telling it Like it is: an Evening with Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles.”

Kicking off the new Chancellor’s Speaker Series on Nov. 16, 2011, an overflow audience of several hundred of Charlotte’s civic, political, business, and philanthropic leaders were treated to a compelling and entertaining discourse on some of the most pressing fiscal challenges facing the nation.

Bowles and Simpson, co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, shared some of their thoughts on pragmatic solutions to America’s debt crisis at the event at UNC Charlotte Center City, the new 11-story, $50 million building in downtown Charlotte.

To the campus community, UNC Charlotte Center City is considered to be much more than a building. It symbolizes how the University has become an indispensable thread in the social, cultural and economic fabric of the Charlotte region.

In early 2012, Center City will welcome its first gallery exhibit, commissioned by the College of Arts + Architecture. In the spring, a magnificent exhibit, Violins of Hope, will make its North American debut in the Center City gallery.

The appearance by Bowles and Simpson came a week before the so-called Congressional supercommittee’s Nov. 23 deadline. The 12-member supercommittee, made up of six Democrats and six Republicans, must agree on a plan to cut the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years or trigger billions in automatic cuts to defense and other federal programs.

Bowles and Simpson have pushed the supercommittee to go beyond their mandate and cut at least $4 trillion.

Bowles, a Democrat and former UNC System President and White House chief of staff, and Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, engaged the evening audience with candid anecdotes and comments.

“What Al and I are trying to do,” Bowles said, “is get people to address the real causes (of the debt), to be honest about it, understand that everybody has to put aside their partisan sacred cow and do something big and bold.”

Simpson warned that Washington leaders might be adversely influenced by the fiscal turmoil in Europe.

“The pressures on (lawmakers) are enormous,” he said, “not just internally but because of Greece and Italy and the stuff going on around the world. And we’re on a trajectory … that matches all those countries.”

The two leaders also spent time on the main campus earlier in the day, meeting with UNC Charlotte students, faculty and staff at the Student Union.

“I love the fray,” Simpson said when he was asked by moderator Chris William to say what motivates him. “I’ve been the toast of the town one day and toast the next day. I just like to mix it up.”

Bowles tried to lay down the hard choices facing the nation.

“If we agree to make the tough choices we must make, I think the future is very bright for this country,” he said. “If we don’t, we are well on the way to becoming a second-rate power.

“This is not a Republican deal or a Democratic deal,” he said. “It’s a country deal.”