December 21, 2014

Panelists Implore Lawmakers to Move Beyond Sound Bites

  • The federal budget is an expression of our country's values. Where we choose to spend and at what levels, how and who we tax, and the borrowing we...

Projected budget deficits and the growth of the federal debt loom over nearly every policy issue in Washington. So it is important for ordinary citizens as well as elected officials to focus on federal budget issues -- and to push for fiscal reform.

Yet as Charles Arlinghaus, president of The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, noted at a panel discussion this month at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, fiscal issues are “difficult to deal with, and do not easily fit in a 10-second sound bite.”

The program focused on the federal budget, the national debt and the political roadblocks to fiscal reform. It was co-sponsored by The Concord Coalition, the Bartlett Center, the Campaign to Fix the Debt, the Millennial Action Coalition and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy. Other panel members were Richard Swett, a former ambassador who also served in Congress, and Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director.

Swett emphasized the need for stronger political leadership and more cooperation on fiscal matters: “We do not have to agree on everything, but we do have to work together.”

All the panelists stressed the need for political courage. Bixby cited the courage displayed by Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) when they both voted for the Simpson-Bowles plan despite opposition within their own parties.

“Durbin is very liberal and Coburn is very conservative, yet they found a way to look beyond their respective leanings and agree upon several reforms to put us on a sustainable fiscal path,” Bixby said.