No matter where you are on the political spectrum, you can expect the political atmosphere to get even murkier. There is little doubt that the November elections will deliver at least one legislative branch to a Republican majority. Even if they do not succeed, the politics of governing will get much tougher.
Democratic control will substantially diminish. That means that any changes will require a more bi-partisan approach for anything to pass or succeed. In all likelihood, we will witness more political standoffs and little progress on the big issues facing our nation. That is a shame!
One thing is for sure. The outspoken cry to reduce the federal deficit will get even louder. We grow increasingly uncomfortable about the fiscal condition of the United States. At the same time, we seem to be unable to make the tough choices necessary to bring government spending back into balance, especially in light of our high unemployment levels.
According to the Concord Coalition, our federal deficits will total $14.4 trillion over the next 10 years. In order to reduce those deficits, we will have to establish principles and priorities upon which to make the tough choices. Democrats and Republicans will each approach this task with different agendas. How or whether they will come together will depend upon public pressure and global pressures.
As the public, we can make better choices when we are better informed about the options available. To that end, the Concord Coalition has created a Federal Budget Challenge so that individuals can learn about the options and the choices to address the federal deficit. The Concord Coalition is a non-partisan, grassroots organization dedicated to educating the public about the causes and consequences of federal budget deficits.
It is important to know that our budget is in crisis not just because of the recent economic recession, but also because of our aging population and explosive health care costs. Our deficit in 2009 of $1.4 trillion is a small fraction of the longer term gap between we what have promised to provide and what we have the ability to pay.
By 2019, the national debt will soar to be as large as the entire U.S. economy. The impact of that debt will slow our economy even further, lowering productivity and reducing living standards.
Please go to www.federalbudgetchallenge.org. Take the challenge. You will progress through 11 policy option screens where basic information is presented on the choices to be made within that policy arena. You can make your choices and see the impact of those decisions on the budget deficit.
It is an interesting exercise that shows you just how difficult the choices will be to make any progress on reducing our federal deficit. Once you have completed the challenge, you will know more about the complexity of these issues and appreciate the difficulty in achieving bipartisan support.
Fellow Charlottean Erskine Bowles is heading up a presidential bipartisan commission to make recommendations for deficit reduction. He and Alan Simpson have an extremely tough task. Our deficit cannot be fixed in one year or five years or even 10 years, but we can make progress every year. Erskine’s experience negotiating with Newt Gingrich in 1997 helped produce our first balanced budget in 30 years. That was undone by our political choices in the last 10 years. It will be interesting to learn the recommendations for our present situation.
It is easy to bark about deficits and government spending. It is much tougher to grapple with the real issues and make smart decisions in the best interests of our future collectively and independently. No one wants to pay more taxes. No one wants to cut social security. No one likes the tough choices. Yet, we must make changes. Our future depends upon it. We cannot afford to NOT make choices.