Belt-tightening, New Priorities, and America’s Fiscal Future
The Significance of the Deficit Reduction Commission recommendations on the Nation's Future
It is time to be candid with the American people about the financial solvency of our nation.
If our nation hopes to establish and genuinely pursue a bright vision, we must bring government spending under control and establish priorities that will protect our future.
To remain a leading global economic power, we must all take stock and determine that the time truly has come (and then some) for a massive dose of “fiscal belt-tightening.” And that’s going to get uncomfortable (and ugly) on Capitol Hill.
I believe that such belt-tightening is the purpose of the Obama Administration’s bipartisan Deficit Reduction Commission. The Commission was created in February 2010 and is co-chaired by former White House Chief of Staff, Erskine Bowles and former Republican Senate Whip, Alan Simpson. The clear mandate from the President is that the committee move forward to build a “bipartisan consensus to put American on the path toward fiscal reform and responsibility.” I appreciate the effort of the committee, and more than that, their candor.
On November 10, the Commission recommended a multi-trillion deficitreduction plan that includes solving the nation’s deficit woes both through a spending reduction and through tax revenue. Proposed cuts include significant cuts to the defense budgetand to a wide swath of social programs. The plan also includes capping Federal health spending. Already the commission’s work has drawn criticism (and what in our current political climate doesn’t), but it has also been praised by the Concord Coalition, a non-partisan advocate of fiscal responsibility.
As details continue to emerge, we can expect to hear critics from all corners and parties bemoan the “catastrophic” impact lean-policy will have on their programs. But with an overall goal to reduce the debt by $4 trillion by 2020 (which still doesn’t get us to a balanced budget), a lot of cutting is in order and it seems that the Commission is putting everything on the table.
I would hope this will start a thoughtful discussion among all of us about our nations future, our future in a global community, and how we are going to help our children lead America's efforts.
This is not the time to declare any idea off the table. It is beyond time to have the serious, and I will go so far as to suggest painful, fiscal discussion and reach some consensus on our nation's future. These decisions will impact every governmental institution at every level and every citizen’s livelihood. We can stymie in a political quagmire, or we can urge our elected officials to get about the serious business of governing in these very serious times and to truly set our nation’s priorities.
I know all too well the difficulties inherent in facing fiscal issues head-on, and the fallout that such unpopular choices can have in terms of political cache. As Governor of Missouri, I was one of the first state leaders that tried to raise these issues at the state and national level in the early 2000s. It was not popular then, and it may not be popular today, but we owe it to the future generations to try—and I’d say do more than try; we owe it to them to act boldly and with a greater sense of unity than current political leaders seem willing to promote.
This can't be a discussion where we talk only about reducing taxes, or safeguarding specific programs, or protecting one segment of our society versus another, or about the necessity for cuts in one area that we won’t consider in others. The dialogue and decision making that surrounds our fiscal rebirth must be about the totality of our citizens commitment to each other and our shared commitment to strengthening our democratic institutions into the future.
We need leadership, not rhetoric. We need thoughtful courageous leaders who respect the will of the people enough to help us face these challenges head on and without concern for their own political future. Find them in your community and give them your support and your time. They come from every party, from every race and gender, and they are the hope for the future.