The Concord Coalition said today that it welcomes President Obama’s White House summit on fiscal responsibility and urged participants to seek common ground on key challenges rather than erect barriers to constructive solutions. Concord will be represented at the summit by Executive Director Robert L. Bixby. Concord’s President, Peter G. Peterson, will also participate in his capacity as founder of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
“No one should expect a grand bargain to result from one meeting. However, this summit is a valuable opportunity to build consensus on the magnitude of our fiscal challenges, the need to make trade-offs among competing priorities and the importance of acting sooner rather than later. With the deficit shooting up to record levels, the administration and Congress need to show that there is an exit strategy. The summit, followed by the President’s budget, should begin that process,” Bixby said.
One tangible goal of the summit would be for participants to agree on a general set of principles similar to those endorsed by members of the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour. While acknowledging diverse perspectives on the appropriate mix of spending, taxes and debt, Wake-Up Tour participants all agree that:
- Current fiscal policy is unsustainable.
- There are no quick and easy solutions, such as cutting waste fraud and abuse or growing our way out of the problem.
- Finding solutions will require bipartisan cooperation and a willingness to discuss all options.
- Public engagement and understanding is vital in finding solutions.
- It is not about numbers. It is about generational stewardship.
The Fiscal Wake Up Tour is a joint initiative of The Concord Coalition, the Budgeting for National Priorities Project at the Brookings Institution, The Heritage Foundation and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
“It is very important that the summit not be a one-and-done event. To be credible, there must be some commitment to a process leading to action. Since the regular legislative process has been incapable of dealing with the impending fiscal crisis, the best way forward may be a bipartisan commission or task force. This could be a useful mechanism to break the gridlock if it is truly bipartisan, involves the public, and leads to an up or down vote in Congress with limited amendments allowed. We don’t need another study commission. Good models have been proposed by Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Representatives Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Frank Wolf (R-VA),” Bixby said.
Concord underscored that because the choices to be faced are politically difficult, the active involvement of the American people is critical. Without greater understanding of the problem among the public, community leaders, business leaders and state and local officials, elected leaders in Washington are unlikely to break out of their usual talking points -- and unlikely to find solutions.
“The Fiscal Wake-Up Tour groups are eager to assist in public engagement efforts. We have been at it for more than three years. Our experience is that when audiences are told the facts and the consequences of inaction, particularly for future generations, they are eager to discuss solutions and willing to accept the need for tradeoffs. The major stumbling block is not apathy or selfishness but lack of trust in their leaders. The cure for that is a more honest dialogue about the challenges we face and less partisan bickering. Perhaps the summit will help bring this about. It’s a ray of hope in a pretty grim picture,” Bixby said.
The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to balanced federal budgets and generationally responsible fiscal policy. Former U.S. Senators Warren Rudman (R-NH) and Bob Kerrey (D-NE) serve as Concord's co-chairs and former Secretary of Commerce Peter Peterson serves as president.