Back in August of 2011, with the nation’s debt bumping up against its statutory limit and an election year looming, President Obama and Congress made a deal.
They would empower a special committee (the “super committee”) to reach a long-term budget deal worth $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction and give that deal a fast-track path to enactment. All options for cutting spending or raising revenues would be on the table.
Among budget wonks who discuss the long-term fiscal challenge, there is something of a consensus -- the projected upward trajectory of our debt is caused primarily by the projected growth in federal health care programs.
For some, this consensus has developed into short-hand: The nation’s fiscal challenge is really “just a health care problem.” This leads to the conclusion that the nation’s unsustainable fiscal future can only be redirected by reforming the entire health care sector of the economy. Or perhaps by simply converting Medicare into a “premium support” program.
Over many years of grassroots outreach, The Concord Coalition has learned to count on the passion and creativity of its members. Those of us who spend time traveling the country know that Washington doesn't have a monopoly on good ideas -- that often the public is ahead of the politicians in recognizing the need for action and cooperation on important public policies. That is why we are happy to announce that our friends at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation have launched a new grassroots competition called "I'm Ready."
Over the past 20 years The Concord Coalition has worked to build an impressive grassroots network. Given our nation’s poor financial condition and fiscal outlook, it is more important than ever to inspire action within that grassroots network. The next three months are critical in regards to addressing our nation’s huge and mounting fiscal challenge.
The Concord Coalition, which has long viewed public engagement as essential to U.S. fiscal reform, is partnering with the Campaign to Fix the Debt to present a series of public forums around the country in the coming weeks.
This joint project will focus its efforts on ten programs in six states: Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida and Tennessee. These events, open to the public, will take a variety of forms.
In his press conference this week, President Obama suggested that policymakers only need to pass another $1.5 trillion worth of deficit reduction, on top of the $2.5 trillion already enacted, to stabilize the growth of the nation’s debt and, in his words, “finish the job.”
On his way out the door, retiring Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) had a lot to say. It was a final reminder -- he called it a challenge -- from one of the Senate’s foremost deficit hawks of why deficits matter and why much more must be done to do bring them under control.
With no time left on the clock, Senate Democrats and Republicans have approved a deal to avoid the most immediate consequences of the so-called “fiscal cliff.” The defining feature of the deal, however, is that it leaves much more to be done.
The deal -- which the House must still vote on -- requires no hard choices and solves no difficult problems.