Peterson Foundation Fiscal Summit: ‘Debt Matters’

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Amid widespread concern about the rapidly rising national debt, The Peter G. Peterson Foundation held its ninth annual “Fiscal Summit” Thursday in Washington to spotlight the risks and challenges that such debt entails.

“This year the theme of our fiscal summit is ‘debt matters’ because we thought Washington needed some reminding,” said Michael A. Peterson, chairman and CEO of the foundation. After reviewing the key drivers of the national debt, he added: “While the economy is strong, now is the time we should be getting our fiscal house in order. But we are doing just the opposite. . . .

“So why is the debt so important? Because it will affect our economic future. The growing debt crowds out private and public investment that would grow our economy, it hurts confidence and lowers certainty. It increases the likelihood of a fiscal crisis and reduces our fiscal flexibility, and it also risks the safety net. . . . It is certainly time for a fiscal reset.”

The summit took place against a dismal fiscal background: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) last month released alarming new projections of mounting federal deficits and debt over the next 10 years. Thanks in part to recent tax and spending legislation, CBO projects, deficits over the coming decade would add $12.4 trillion to the national debt, which is currently somewhat over $21 trillion.

A variety of backgrounds, perspectives and political views were featured at the summit through individual interviews and panel discussions. Participants included Republican senators Jeff Flake and David Perdue, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and other elected officials, academics and researchers.

The deficit-financed tax cuts that Congress and President Trump approved late last year and the deficit-financed spending increases they approved in March were key points of debate.

Other topics through the day included the economic consequences of high government debt, demographic and socioeconomic trends, energy policies, national security, entitlement programs, infrastructure needs, and inconsistent public expectations on the budget.

In addition to identifying problems, speakers offered possible solutions such as more bipartisan cooperation, greater commitment to the “pay as you go” concept on Capitol Hill, changes in the congressional budget process and stronger public engagement in fiscal reform.

There were also remembrances of Peter G. Peterson, the tireless champion of fiscal responsibility who died in March at age 91. He founded the Peterson Foundation and was a co-founder of The Concord Coalition.

Videos of the summit programs and Information on the panelists and interviewees are available on the Peterson Foundation’s website.

The Concord Coalition receives financial support from the Peterson Foundation.

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