Concord Coalition supporters gathered to celebrate 25 years of fiscal responsibility education and advocacy at the historical Colonial Inn on Sept. 25 in Concord, Mass. At a lunch four speakers discussed Concord’s achievements, lessons learned over the past 25 years, and the fiscal policy challenges facing our nation.
U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, wife of the late U.S. senator and Concord co-founder Paul Tsongas, kicked off the event and discussed the organization’s early days. “At the conclusion of his presidential campaign,” she said, “Paul was looking for ways to continue his advocacy around fiscal responsibility and not saddling future generations with great debt.”
The event also featured a panel discussion involving Doug Elmendorf, Harvard Kennedy School Dean and former CBO director, and Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director. Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh served as moderator.
Rep. Tsongas recalled that The Concord Coalition was born out of a conversation at the Colonial Inn between Paul Tsongas and then-senator Warren B. Rudman. Tsongas and Rudman joined forces with Peter G. Peterson, a former U.S. secretary of commerce, in launching the organization in 1992.
She said her late husband “would be very pleased today that it is still continuing in that nonpartisan tradition that has really become, for those of us on the Hill, a reliable, trusted, go-to source of information as we debate fiscal policy.”
Beginning the panel discussion, Lehigh said he has used Concord as a resource when writing about fiscal policy and the national debt, adding that “it is a place you can go for information, explanations and for trusted analysis, knowing it’s not driving an agenda or set of ridiculous ideas.”
Elmendorf highlighted several fiscal challenges facing the nation over the next 25 years. Under current policy, he said, “the federal debt is on an unsustainable path, relative to the size of our economy.”
Meeting that challenge, he said, requires Congress to “cut federal spending and raise taxes relative to current policies.” This must be done while adjusting to an aging population and addressing the growth in health care costs.
Bixby said Concord is guided by Paul Tsongas’ belief that the organization should not get embroiled in the debate over big government versus small government; instead it should advocate that “we pay for the size government that we want.”
Bixby said the organization would continue its role of holding Congress accountable and helping prepare a sustainable economic future for the country. He envisioned Concord’s next 25 years as being focused on the difficult choices required to adapt the budget to an aging population, promote investment in the future and encourage more economic growth.
He recalled that Rudman and Tsongas talked about the need to confront the facts, make hard choices and take a bipartisan approach. Bixby added: “There is not enough of that, less of it now than 25 years ago, but hopefully we will be able to continue our mission in that regard and help bring about a brighter future.”