“It is totally irresponsible that nobody is focusing on the debt, because it is our biggest problem,” said former Congressman Chris Shays.
Shays joined me on “Facing the Future” to discuss how being a candidate and a member of Congress have changed since he first took office in 1987. Shays, a Republican, represented Connecticut’s Fourth District until 2009.
With several congressional candidates in New Hampshire scheduled in coming weeks to share their policy priorities and plans on “Facing the Future,” Shays offered his insight and advice on campaigning and issues like the federal debt that should be of concern for Congress.
“We are getting to a point where too much of our expense is just carrying the debt costs and it will get larger as the interest rates go up,” Shays said. “Every member of Congress should be forced to deal with this problem and say what their solution is.”
He lamented how some things have changed for the worse. These days candidates for Congress have to spend significantly more time raising money than what was required in the 1990s.
“Most members spend a lot of time in Washington,” Shays said. “Instead of being in public hearings, they spend a lot of their time raising money.”
He also said working across party lines has become increasingly difficult. He provided an example: a Democratic lawmaker was instructed to stop working with him on legislation.
As the partisan divide grew deeper in the 1990s and early 2000s, both parties began to attack more moderate or centrist members, and communication broke down.
"Neither party wants to tolerate anybody in the middle because they want to win that election," Shays said. “They are not working together, they are not putting their country first, they are putting their party first.”
“Be willing to lose the election, and sometimes if you’re willing to lose the election, you can win it,” he said. He added that this include engaging voters who are not already supporters.
“Candidates need to listen, they need to learn, they need to help, and they need to lead,” he said.
Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby also joined the program to discuss the Congressional Budget Office’s monthly budget review and its report on “How Changes in Economic Conditions Might Affect the Federal Budget.”
“The CBO is projecting that for this year we will have a deficit of $793 billion,” Bixby said. “Revenue went up 1 percent, spending went up -- so far -- by 4 percent.”
I host “Facing the Future” each week on WKXL Concord News Radio (N.H.), which is also available via podcast. Join us as we discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders, elected officials and candidates for public office. Past broadcasts are available here. You can now subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play or through RSS.