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The Daily Tar Heel

Bowles to draw on experience

Will lead bipartisan group to tackle federal deficit

Erskine Bowles announced his  retirement from UNC last Friday.
Erskine Bowles announced his retirement from UNC last Friday.

UNC-system President Erskine Bowles played a key role in balancing the federal budget in 1997. President Barack Obama is asking him to step up once again.

Obama signed an executive order Thursday that establishes a bipartisan federal commission responsible for crafting a plan to reduce the federal deficit.

Bowles, a Democrat and former White House Chief of Staff during President Bill Clinton’s administration, will lead the commission with former Senate Whip Alan Simpson, a Republican from Wyoming.

“I believe that when the president of the United States believes you can help your country in a matter of material importance, you have a moral obligation to say, ‘Yes’,” Bowles said in a statement to the UNC-system Board of Governors.

Bowles announced last week that he would retire by the end of 2010. The federal appointment didn’t prompt that decision, Bowles said in the statement.

Board Chairwoman Hannah Gage said that Bowles was one of the most qualified people she could think of for the position.

“A strong theme of the past few years has been getting our own fiscal house in order,” she wrote in an e-mail. “If the federal deficit continues to grow and the nation’s economic condition is in question, none of our work will matter.”

The 18-member National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform must make a set of recommendations to the U.S. Congress by Dec. 1, 2010, for substantially reducing the deficit by 2015, according to a statement released by the White House.

The nonpartisan basis of the commission and his ability to finish his work for the UNC system were crucial to his decision to accept the appointment, Bowles said in the statement.

“Restoring our nation’s fiscal health is an absolute necessity. You have heard me say many times that if we do not get our national budget under control, our nation is in grave danger of becoming a second-rate power,” he said in the statement.

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