Hundreds of people gathered in several cities around the country last week to wrestle with the difficult decisions that are needed for the federal government to rein in future deficits while still meeting its fundamental responsibilities.
The events were hosted by the non-partisan Concord Coalition and U.S. Representatives Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts, Timothy Walz of Minnesota and Gary Peters of Michigan, along with some other local sponsors.
Two programs Thursday in Tucson, which were presented as Rep. Giffords continues to recover from injuries she suffered in a mass shooting in that city in January, included presentations by Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition, and David M. Walker, former comptroller general of the United States and current CEO of the Comeback America Initiative.
Audience members at the evening program eventually broke into groups to discuss federal budget options in a popular Concord exercise called “Principles and Priorities.” The exercise is designed to help people understand the tough choices necessary to reduce the budget deficit.
Walker blamed both parties for the mistakes of the last decade, which he calls “the most fiscally irresponsible period in American history.” Bixby said that Washington would need to return to the “spirit of civility” that followed the Tucson shooting because neither party, acting alone, could force through its own budget plan.
On Wednesday night in Concord, Massachusetts, audience members also played Principles and Priorities. Rep. Tsongas said the current debate over the debt limit “has helped focus national attention on an undeniable fact – our budget is on an unsustainable path.” Her late husband, Sen. Paul Tsongas, played a central role in establishing The Concord Coalition in the early 1990s.
Other Principles and Priorities exercises were held last week with Rep. Walz in Rochester and Winona, Minnesota, and with Rep. Peters in Berkley, Michigan.