Public Engagement Is Critical

Blog Post
Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Deficit reduction talks this year have largely taken place behind closed doors, without engaging the public in any meaningful way. But Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition, argues that the dozen lawmakers who have been appointed to a new deficit reduction committee should include an unofficial 13th member – the American public.

“If the committee locks itself away in a congressional cloister,” he writes in a new blog posting on The American Square,  “the public will find it hard to understand and accept the politically difficult choices that the committee must make to reach its deficit reduction goal.”

Bixby suggests that committee members do “two-by-two” programs in which they present agreed-upon facts to engage each others’ constituents about possible solutions to the nation’s fiscal challenges.

Through its “Fiscal Wake-Up Tour” and “Fiscal Solutions Tour,” Concord has found that audiences around the country are receptive to events in which speakers with different views on the appropriate size of federal spending and taxes emphasize key areas in which they agree.

These areas of agreement, Bixby says, include the overall dimensions of the problems, the nature of the trade-offs in considering solutions, and the need to make changes sooner rather than later for the sake of future generations.