November 26, 2014

Posts on grassroots

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Monday, April 25, 2011 - 9:25 AM

House Republicans have adopted a budget they say will make tough but necessary spending cuts to rein in our nation’s burgeoning budget deficits. President Obama says the Republican plan is too radical. He hit the road last week to sell his own deficit reduction plan, which he says is more balanced.

So, it’s “game on.”

But just what is the purpose of this game?

If the purpose is to gain advantage for the 2012 elections, then recent events make sense. If, however, the purpose is to build consensus around a fiscal sustainability plan, we’re off on the wrong track. Rather than seeking areas of common ground, which clearly exist, the President and Republican leaders seem more interested in sharpening their differences.

Consider two major issues: tax reform and health care.

In both instances there is the potential for compromise. Indeed, without compromise on health care and taxes, it is hard to see how a meaningful plan for fiscal sustainability can be enacted.

Two bipartisan groups that looked at these issues last year were each able to find consensus, at least around a broad approach.

On tax reform, the Bowles-Simpson and Domenici-Rivlin commissions both recommended that most tax expenditures – deductions, exclusions and credits – be eliminated or greatly scaled back in exchange...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 - 10:46 AM

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress got a lot of good advice recently when representatives of The Concord Coalition’s fiscal advisory councils visited Capitol Hill to present their recommendations.

The basic message: Elected officials must make some dramatic changes to put the country on a more responsible fiscal course, protect our economic future and avoid saddling our children and grandchildren with massive debt.

Advisory council members from across the country -- Atlanta, Iowa, Milwaukee, Northern California and Philadelphia -- met with members of Congress and their staffs as part of The Concord Coalition’s National Conference of Fiscal Stewardship this month in Washington. The Fiscal Advisory Council of Northern Virginia had already met with several members of Congress in the fall. Representatives from the University of Denver, where the Fiscal Stewardship Project featured a special student engagement initiative this year, also attended the conference and met with elected officials.

In the conference’s opening...

Monday, October 26, 2009 - 3:40 PM

The Concord Coalition’s Fiscal Wake-Up Tour made its second stop in Denver on Thursday, drawing around 700 people of all ages for a day-long collection of events. 

The message of fiscal responsibility found receptive audiences as college students and others heard experts discuss the country's long-term fiscal problems and some possible solutions. The sense of concern in the audience was palpable, as was the frustration with government officials who have failed to take effective action.

Early in the day, nearly 300 Colorado college students participated in “Paying for America,” a student summit held at the the Cable Center on the University of Denver campus. (You can watch the summit panels here.)

They heard from a collection of budget experts, student activists, and filmmakers including: ...

Saturday, September 26, 2009 - 10:04 PM

I spent much of the last week in San Francisco assisting our Northern California Fiscal Advisory Council in their discussions of the possible solutions to the country's fiscal challenges. While we spent quite a bit of time talking about health care reform and the challenges of health care cost control, questions kept coming up about the national debt and foreign holdings of that debt, and the possibilities for inflation because of the current economic situation and whether there was a long-term inflation risk because of our indebtedness.

We are often asked about these topics in our grassroots conversations. However, they are incredibly complex and talking through them is difficult. So, for now, I can let a couple items I read recently speak for me.

The first is the text of a speech given by the President of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, Janet Yellen. In it, she discusses the still quite troubled state of the economy, the somewhat remote chances for inflation in the near-term due to lasting high unemployment, and the Fed's commitment to preventing inflation.

The second is an...

Friday, August 28, 2009 - 8:52 AM

Perhaps even more than most of Concord’s Fiscal Wake-Up Tour programs, the one in Maine this week underscored the need for a really big alarm clock.

The recession has sliced into the government's revenue while putting its spending on steroids. Concord Executive Director Robert L. Bixby offered the Wake-Up Tour audience of more than 200 in Kennebunkport a troubling factoid: last month’s federal deficit of $180 billion was larger than the deficit for all of 2007.

And on the same day, the Obama administration released a grim projection of $9 trillion in deficits over the next decade, $2 trillion higher than its previous estimate. When this was reported in Kennebunkport, fretful murmurs swept through the room. 

Even the $9 trillion figure is probably too optimistic, according to Concord’s analysis. So to borrow an analogy from David M. Walker, president and CEO of The Peter G. Peterson Foundation: Watch out for the "tsunami" that’s on the way.

Then there’s the current status of the health care debate: High interest in new government services and assistance, considerably less enthusiasm for proposals to pay for them. And not all that...

Friday, August 28, 2009 - 8:50 AM

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...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - 4:13 PM

Yesterday, experts from the Iowa Committee for Value in Healthcare -- a diverse group of Iowa health care providers, purchasers, payers, patient advocates, and policy analysts -- sent a letter to President Obama and Congressional leaders indicating the principles for value-based health care reform that should be considered in any health care legislation. 

This committee was established as part of The Concord Coalition's Fiscal Stewardship Project to suggest ways that health reform could be enhanced to create a more value-based system. As Congressional efforts toward health reform continue through the summer, value, cost and long-term savings have become more prominent aspects of the debate. Achieving value in the health care system is essential for the ...

Monday, June 22, 2009 - 9:05 AM

On June 15 and June 16, leaders from various youth organizations traveled to Washington, D.C. for a youth conference hosted by The Concord Coalition and the Youth Entitlements Summit (YES), and underwritten by The Peter G. Peterson Foundation. The event aimed to encourage public discourse among the "Millennial generation" about the nation's fiscal challenges and to generate a collective plan of action for grassroots efforts to do the same. 

Last month, at an event for young activists, I found myself on the spot once I mentioned The Concord Coalition’s work on fiscal awareness. A fellow attendant replied, “Look, I’m not trying to be rude, but I just don’t think the debt matters.” Such indifference concerned me until I watched America’s future leaders passionately discussing the need to fix this imbalance to save our economic futures.

On the first day of the conference, we heard from politicians and scholars who are heavily involved in the fiscal policy arena, including the...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 - 11:30 AM

The Concord Coalition is currently engaging in a Fiscal Stewardship Project that takes us to select cities across the country. This project is designed as a follow-up to our Fiscal Wake-Up Tour visits in those cities and as part of that we have created local Fiscal Advisory Councils (F.A.C.'s) -- groups of local citizens interested in doing more to promote and discuss fiscal responsibility. These councils meet regularly and are focused not only on talking about our fiscal future, but also in discussing possible solutions to our long-term budget challenge.

One of the event types we conduct in conjunction with these F.A.C. meetings is called a "Choice Dialogue." These are day-long public forums where randomly selected individuals, from the cities where the F.A.C.'s are located, come together to work through the information about our fiscal challenge and coalesce around common values and solutions. The goal is for the conclusions they reach to then be presented to the F.A.C. members, who then undergo a lengthy dialogue of their own, so that the ideas and solutions the F.A.C. coalesces around can truly be said to be informed by community thoughts...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 - 3:26 PM

Over the last week and a half, I've watched the launch and rapid growth of a very promising movement. It is called "80 Million Strong for Young American Jobs" and represents the coalescence of over a dozen leading youth organizations to advocate for a new American economy.

This is the kind of movement, the kind of coordinated effort that America needs to tackle our greatest and most glaring problems. 80 Million Strong promises not just the organization and conviction to accomplish their goals, but the understanding and foresight to accomplish the right goals without compromising our future. It is the goal of The Concord Coalition to educate the public about the importance of fiscal sustainability. It is the goal of 80 Million Strong to be the voice of the Millennials so they can hold government accountable to the next generation. At the intersection of the two, I hope to see the political strength of young Americans used judiciously to advocate for sound government and a secure fiscal future.

As Concord's Youth Outreach Coordinator, I am proud to be a part of the 80 Million Strong coalition, and look forward to witnessing their continued growth over the coming months.

Be sure to...