July 31, 2014

Join the Local Deficit-Reduction Discussion

In a recent op-ed for The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), Sara Imhof, Midwest regional director for the Concord Coalition, invited readers to two budget exercises this Tuesday in Marshalltown and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Co-hosted by Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), the exercises will ask participants to develop policies that would put America on a stronger fiscal foundation. The column can also be found here. Follow the links to learn more about Tuesday's events in Marshalltown and Cedar Rapids!

The gyms are packed this month as we try to uphold our commitment to our New Year’s Resolutions for losing weight and getting into shape.

But are we as committed to our nation’s fiscal fitness as we are to our own physical fitness?

In both cases, getting into shape can be so daunting that it is easy to get discouraged — and good intentions often fall by the wayside.

Some progress has been made on the federal budget. A compromise deal finally was reached in December. And appropriators were able to follow through on the deal with a $1.1 trillion spending package for fiscal 2014.

However, the fiscal year is already more than 3 1/2 months old. And this is just a short-term deal that only involves “discretionary spending” — roughly a third of the federal budget that lawmakers approve on an annual basis.

Congress still needs to address the biggest fiscal challenges, including a national debt rising at an unsustainable rate and growing interest payments, a ramshackle tax system that costs $1 trillion a year in lost revenue, and an aging population that will require more and more assistance from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

TUESDAY FORUM

Citizens of the Cedar Rapids community will have the opportunity to flex their fiscal stewardship muscles at an interactive deficit-reduction forum from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday on the Kirkwood Community College campus, in Iowa Hall Rooms A-D (6301 Kirkwood Blvd. SW). For more information call (563) 557-7789.

The nonpartisan Concord Coalition will join Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley, D-Waterloo, in presenting the program, designed to help citizens better understand the federal budget and the challenges of deficit reduction.

Working in small groups, participants will try to develop packages of policies to put America on a stronger fiscal foundation and protect ourselves and future generations from unmanageable levels of government debt. They will consider options for domestic spending, defense, the inefficient tax code and popular entitlement programs.

My colleagues at The Concord Coalition and I have presented such budget exercises across the nation with a variety of audiences in recent years.

I have done these programs throughout the Midwest with community and academic groups as well as policymakers in both parties, including some earlier ones with Braley.

What I love most about doing these programs is seeing how average Americans are willing to come together to confront difficult choices, work out their differences and find solutions. On Tuesday, Braley will get to hear directly from his constituents about their ideas on deficit reduction.

This week’s program particularly is timely as the country digests the details of the budget choices that Congress has just made for the rest of this year — and addresses the need to again raise the federal debt ceiling, which currently is frozen through Feb. 7.

Please consider joining us for Tuesday’s budget exercise — and bring your knowledge, skills and values with you.

And I hope you will remain engaged on the issue of fiscal reform and long-term deficit reduction. Finding the right solutions will mean a more vibrant economy, a stronger country and a brighter future for us and future generations.