With just weeks to go before the presidential election, there are a great many important and pressing issues facing our nation that merit the attention of both the candidates and the voters – the economy, foreign policy and the overall role of government, to name a few.
WHILE THERE ARE major points of contention between the two candidates and the two parties on all of these issues, there is one issue on which we should all be able to agree: The national debt is too large, and unless something is done to halt its continued escalation, the debt will undoubtedly do irreparable harm to our nation’s economy.
Regardless of your favored federal policy – be it your desire to see maintained funding levels for infrastructure projects or for the military, or your preference for continuing current tax levels and exemptions – the current course of our debt threatens to slowly eat away at every governmental program. Simply put, regardless of your political leanings, an inescapable question for the candidates during the remaining part of the campaign is this: How can we afford to solve all of our other problems if the national debt continues to spiral out of control?
Our federal debt is currently hovering around $16 trillion and, unfortunately, continues to rise with no immediate signs of stopping. For the first time since the post-World War II years the publicly held portion of our national debt has grown to 70 percent of our Gross Domestic Product;
without a change of course, our debt could reach 100 percent of the economy during the next decade.
LEADERS OF BOTH political parties have avoided tackling this problem because of their refusal to confront their favored
constituencies’ policy preferences. Now it is simply too late to limit the options on the bargaining table before negotiations even begin. There is no mathematical way to get a debt deal done without addressing both sides of the ledger – both spending and revenues.
While the candidates on both sides have paid enough lip service to the issue of the debt to give voters the appearance that they’re working to right our fiscal ship, the lack of urgency gives voters the impression that the debt is a far-off problem.
THIS IMPRESSION couldn’t be further from the truth. The federal debt is one of the most serious issues facing this country, and it’s already having real and significant impacts on our economy.
At the end of this year, thanks to a poorly conceived mix of spending cuts and expiring tax cuts, Congress will be faced with a ”fiscal cliff.” While teetering over the fiscal cliff would indeed make a substantial dent in the trajectory of the debt, it could put our economy in free-fall. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that going over the cliff will shrink the economy by a 3.9 percent annual rate in the first quarter of 2013.
We need to prevent ourselves from careening over the edge of the fiscal cliff, but, at the same time, we need to make the tough decisions necessary to prevent our federal debt from continuing to grow over the long term.
The national debt is a big and complex issue that has no easy answers. It will require leaders on both sides of the aisle to sit down and have serious discussions. Our political leaders, however, need a push from you – the voters. Rather than accepting political talking points during this campaign season, we all must demand that the problem be solved.
YOU CAN MAKE your voice heard by joining the Campaign to Fix the Debt. More than 180,000 people from all around the country already have come together to urge our elected leaders to act on what Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen has called “our nation’s biggest security threat.”
The petition from citizens demands that our nation act now to find a balanced solution that gradually addresses our long-term debt while steering us away from the fiscal cliff and ensuring that the economy can continue to recover from the recession.
I URGE YOU to go to FixTheDebt.org to sign the petition. And when you watch the presidential debates in the coming weeks, take note of what both candidates say about the debt. Only concrete solutions that leave nothing – not the military, not entitlement programs, not the tax code – off the table should be considered as serious proposals worth your time and attention.
The time for inaction is over. The debate over how to solve the short- and long-term challenges our national debt has presented us is not about partisan attacks or political points – it’s about the future of this country. Let’s work together and finally Fix the Debt.
(The writer is founder of the construction management firm R.W. Allen & Associates, and is a former 2012 Republican congressional candidate.)