Three former congressmen and a retired U.S. ambassador warned of the difficult fiscal policy challenges facing the incoming Trump administration and congressional leaders at a forum last week in Concord, N.H.
The bipartisan panel discussed issues such as the growing debt and deficit, tax reform, affordable health care, Social Security and infrastructure investment. It was hosted by The Concord Coalition and the Warren B. Rudman Center at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.
Panel members were retired ambassador George Bruno and former congressmen Charles Bass, Paul Hodes and William H. Zeliff. Bruno and Hodes are Democrats; Bass and Zeliff are Republicans. Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director, moderated the conversation. A video is available
Bass said that both Republicans and Democrats are to blame for the nation’s debt and deficit issues, and that both parties must shoulder the responsibility of reform.
He called upon Congress -- which has struggled to complete appropriations legislation in recent years -- to consider systemic reforms that could help improve the budget process and the long-term sustainability of programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Bruno expressed concern that some of the policies proposed by President-elect Trump and congressional Republicans could have negative economic ramifications -- like job losses -- while at the same time increasing the national debt.
Hodes expressed dissatisfaction with those same initiatives, decrying policies he said could result in an unsound federal budget, with increased spending and insufficient tax revenue.
Zeliff thought that a sustainable fiscal future would require stronger leadership from members of Congress, leadership that would speak up for fiscal responsibility and accountability. He suggested that Congress revisit his 1994 “A to Z” initiative with former Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ) to cut spending line-by-line.
In closing remarks, Hodes issued a call to action, insisting that the 100 people in the room could be a powerful force in helping Congress move toward necessary fiscal reforms.