July 25, 2014

Not just "doom and gloom"

Speakers in the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour sometimes worry that all the bad news they are delivering may be leave audiences too discouraged about the country’s future. Too much gloom and doom, after all, could cause some people to simply throw up their hands in despair.

But while people who attended this week’s Wake-Up program in Kennebunkport, Maine, found the presentations sobering, they also seemed engaged and in many cases energized to seek solutions.

That was reflected both in the wide-ranging questions during the program and in comments from some audience members afterwards.

“The program was very informative; it’s great that we can do this,” said Jonathan T.E. Courtney, assistant Republican leader in the Maine Senate. He strongly agreed with the calls for Democrats and Republicans to cooperate in finding solutions to the nation’s fiscal problems: “We just can’t sustain this level of spending.”

Such cooperation in Maine, he said, enabled legislators there to begin to deal constructively with difficulties in the state budget this year: “We decided to engage Democrats rather than throw bombs.”

Frank Gallagher, a Portland Democrat and Maine director for Americans United for Change, also liked the program and agreed with much of what he heard there. Rising federal deficits, he said, were a critical consideration with “any item that’s on the agenda these days.”

Well, he should know. Gallagher’s organization is pushing health care reform, a cause that has run smack into concerns about rapidly rising deficits. The group’s state chapter is keeping a watchful eye on U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who appeared with the Wake-Up speakers and drew dozens of demonstrators supporting heath care reform.

Gallagher said he was struck by the Wake-Up speakers’ emphasis on the need for shared sacrifice to put the nation on a more sustainable course. He agreed, he said, as long as the working class was not asked to sacrifice more than the wealthy – a point he thought could have received more attention from the speakers.

Rob Werner, national field director for Americans for Campaign Reform, had high praise for the program: “I think the information was presented in a way that was compelling and understandable.” The public, he said, had to be convinced of the need for significant change.

Did the program sound too alarmist? No, said Kate Bridges, associate state director with the AARP, an organization that represents older Americans and pays very close attention to calls for entitlement reform and federal spending cuts.

“I think it was a fair and balanced approach,” she said. “The numbers are what they are.”