Washington, Take Note

The following op-ed by Phil Smith was published by the Tampa Bay Tribune on May 18, 2012.

It's not rocket science to realize that America has serious long-term fiscal challenges. However, all too often we get our information from sources such as cable TV shows where "experts" from the far extremes yell and interrupt each other during a three-minute segment. This ranting does nothing to truly educate people about the core problems or potential solutions.

Recently, some local citizens in Trinity and Hudson had the opportunity to experience something completely opposite at multiple events hosted by Congressman Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, and the Concord Coalition.

For more than an hour and a half, these citizens grappled with more than 40 major options within the realm of the federal government.

They decided what to keep, what to cut and what to reform throughout the major policy areas. They considered and voted on options dealing with our complicated tax system, discretionary spending, entitlements (demographic challenges and health-care expenditures) and national security.

It was an engaging way to learn the reality of fiscal constraints and how to work toward a balanced budget.

The net deficit-reduction results varied, from $1 trillion to $5 trillion over a 10-year horizon. The choices these citizens made were really tough and required serious soul-searching in order to incur substantive reform. In fact, these folks did a much better job than last year's failed "super committee." Washington should take note.

We need members of Congress to engage their constituents more on federal budget policy. It's such a vital issue. Bilirakis deserves kudos for these educational efforts.