Op/Ed: Time to work together, bring down the debt

Despite two years of partisan gridlock and political posturing, President Barack Obama is still president and Congress remains divided, just as it was before Election Day.

But we cannot afford for the next two years to be as unproductive as the last two. As students here in our nation’s capital, we have an obligation to get involved in the debate and make our voices heard. With the election behind us, it’s time to demand our leaders get to work and defuse the bomb they’ve been building since they took office: the fiscal cliff.

The fiscal cliff is a euphemism for $480 billion in tax increases and spending cuts automatically set to take effect at midnight on Dec. 31 if Congress does nothing to stop them. The cliff is a result of Congress continuously kicking the can down the road for the past two years by legislating the expiration of tax cuts they never intended to end and by approving spending cuts they never expected to enforce. But while going over the fiscal cliff would cut our deficit in half next year and save us $7.1 trillion over the next 10, it would also slash three percentage points off our economic growth in 2013, plunging us back into a recession and killing two million jobs in the process.

Allowing this bomb to detonate next month is not a rational solution to our long-term fiscal challenges, but neither is simply disarming it and doing nothing else. Doing so would mean allowing our debt to grow to double the size of our economy by 2040. Annual interest payments would exceed a trillion dollars by the end of this decade. If we refuse to take the necessary steps to get our deficits under control, the money we spend on servicing the debt and paying for past promises will crowd out all other federal spending entirely.

The worst part about it is that our generation will be more adversely affected by this than any other. We are the ones who will have to pay higher taxes. We are the ones who won’t be able to afford to educate our children. We are the ones who won’t be able to pay for a first-world infrastructure. We are the ones who are disproportionately affected by this debt, and so we are the ones who need to be disproportionately involved in getting it under control. It’s up to us to demand action.

That is why over the next several months, the AU College Democrats and Republicans will be putting our differences aside to tackle these tough issues, together. In the spring, we will be launching a bipartisan campaign on campus to raise awareness about the dangers of our growing national debt and what you can do to help get our fiscal house in order. You’ll be able to join us in this initiative at UpToUsAU.org.

Our first step is to support a national millennial-driven campaign to pressure Congress and the president for a responsible, long-term deficit reduction plan that puts everything on the table. The Can Kicks Back will be launching on Monday at 6 p.m. at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, and you should be a part of it.

Before Congress comes back into session, we need to send them a clear message: if they insist on kicking the can, the can insists on kicking back.

Ben Ritz Policy Director for AU College Democrats SPA 2014Jonathan Humma Policy Director for AU College RepublicansCAS 2014

Originally posted on American University's The Eagle: http://www.theeagleonline.com/opinion/story/op-ed-time-to-work-together-bring-down-the-debt/