The American People, If Presented With Credible and Understandable Information, Can Make Tough Fiscal Policy Trade-offs

Blog Post
Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Over the past 25 years, The Concord Coalition has hosted hundreds of events with lawmakers, universities, civic organizations, trade associations and many others to focus attention on the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges. Our goal has been to present these audiences with straight-forward facts in programs that are free of partisanship and ideology. The message has been simple: Whether you prefer a smaller or larger government, it must be paid for.

Audiences across the country have shown time and again that they are interested in learning about the issues. Between 2005 and 2010, Concord organized a Fiscal Wake-Up Tour in which experts with diverse perspectives discussed the nation’s fiscal challenges and different approaches for addressing them. These events were well attended and resulted in high-quality dialogue among attendees and presenters.

map of the us with wake-up tour stops
Highlights of the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour, 2005-2010


Concord’s Chart Talk presentations continue to help audiences around the country understand the nation’s fiscal challenges through easy-to-understand graphs and visuals based on data from the Congressional Budget Office and other reliable sources.

Concord’s most popular activity is our Principles & Priorities budget exercise. Participants are placed into small groups and tasked with creating proposed budgets using a list of about 40 policy options.

What we have found from these exercises is greatly encouraging: While the composition of the proposed budgets may differ, nearly all would result in at least some deficit reduction. Despite the ideological and demographic diversity of participants, most grasp the magnitude of the nation’s fiscal challenges and agree to solutions that would help. When members of Congress host or participate in these exercises, they take notice of the sacrifices and trade-offs their constituents are willing to make

Concord’s experience with the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour, Chart Talks, and Principles & Priorities shows that Americans -- if presented with clear, honest information -- are willing to make fiscal policy trade-offs. That should reassure policymakers making difficult decisions that if they communicate effectively and honestly with their constituents and their colleagues, they can foster the political consensus necessary to secure the nation’s long-term fiscal future.