‘Two-by-Two’ Programs Would Engage Public

Blog Post
Tuesday, October 25, 2011

If the super committee on deficit reduction continues to lock itself away in a congressional cloister, the public will have trouble understanding and accepting the difficult choices that the panel members must make to reach or exceed their assigned goal. And other members of Congress who are urging their colleagues on the committee to “go big” in their recommendations should do more than sit on the sidelines, says Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition.

Bixby is calling on Democratic and Republican members of Congress to pair up for forums in their districts that would encourage civil discourse on the country’s budget challenges. In the programs the lawmakers could present agreed-upon facts and engage each others’ constituents about policy options.

Any number of formats could work. Bixby says a good example was set earlier this year by Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who held joint forums in Richmond and Atlanta.

In the last six years, Concord has also brought together analysts and political leaders of diverse perspectives for its “Fiscal Wake-Up” and “Fiscal Solutions” tour programs.

“Audiences across the country have been very receptive,” Bixby writes. “They often express the wish that their political leaders would talk about the issues with the same appreciation of each other’s point of view. More importantly, audience members begin to accept the need for compromise.”