With the election season moving into higher gear and a “fiscal cliff” on the economic horizon, the American public will be hearing more and more about the crushing debt our country faces. As it happens, Idaho is extremely lucky to have two Members of Congress, Senator Mike Crapo and Representative Mike Simpson, who have been spearheading a growing, bipartisan charge to tackle the issue.
That’s why I was honored to be joining these two leaders in Boise to discuss the work of the Campaign to Fix the Debt. We launched the campaign in July as a non-partisan push to put America on a better fiscal and economic path. Members of the campaign have come together from a variety of social, economic and political perspectives, united around a common belief that America’s growing federal debt threatens our future prosperity and that we must address it.
Over the coming months, we will mobilize key communities—including leaders from business, government, and policy—and voters all across America to urge our elected officials step up and solve our nation’s serious fiscal challenges by passing a comprehensive deficit reduction plan.
Luckily, courage and leadership on this issue are not exclusive to the Idaho delegation. Senator Crapo and Representative Simpson are part of a small but expanding circle of lawmakers from both houses of Congress and both sides of the aisle who are willing to discuss, and seek common ground on, the hard choices necessary to set us on a sustainable budget track.
The case for action on this front is stark. Public debt is equal to more than 70 percent of the U.S. economy and is on track to rise well over 100 and 200 percent in the next few decades. That’s way above historical levels we’ve experienced here in the U.S., where debt has averaged about 40 percent of our economy, and way above levels economists consider to be safe.
The corrosive effects of such deep debt threaten our standard of living and our fitful recovery from the Great Recession. Unchecked, it will almost certainly mean higher interest rates throughout the economy. That will make it much harder to buy a new car, buy a new house, or start a new business. It will also make the cost of everyday activities more expensive. On a national scale, this translates into a slower economy, with fewer jobs and lower wages.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Since its launch a few weeks ago, our campaign has been getting a great deal of attention and support. I can tell you from the emails, letters, phone calls and Tweets we receive that the American people are hungry for an adult conversation on what we are up against and how we can fix the debt.
I am often asked what everyday people can do to influence this crucial debate. My answer is to (1) thank those elected officials who have already committed themselves to the cause and (2) make sure, during the fall campaign and beyond, to press candidates and officeholders to explain exactly what they will do to fix America’s finances and avoid saddling our children and grandchildren with a crippling debt burden. I also encourage them to sign up to receive more information on the issue and join the cause at www.FixTheDebt.org.
Despite all of the roadblocks and inertia that confront those seeking to bring people together, across party lines, to find common ground on this issue, I am convinced that it can and will happen. But not without a groundswell of grassroots support that lets every politician know that kicking the fiscal can down the road is no longer acceptable—and may be harmful to their political health.
While there certainly are brave lawmakers in Washington trying to forge a bipartisan consensus on debt reduction, we’re not there yet. We need every American’s help to get a meaningful deal done. In the past, this country’s greatest challenges have inspired some of our finest moments. I am confident that this can be one of those moments.
Maya MacGuineas is the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Senator Crapo, Congressman Simpson, and she will be discussing the debt and possible solutions Monday at an event at the Idaho Statehouse at 12:15 p.m.