December 20, 2014

Concord Coalition shines light on danger of U.S. debt

Group to urge fiscal responsibility in Sioux Falls visit
January 12, 2010
Argus Leader

Excerpt

If you're worried about the nation's debt, the Concord Coalition has got your number.

The organization's goal is to inform future generations about fiscally responsible government.

Tonight, the nonprofit's Midwest regional director, Sara Imhof, is showing a movie called "I.O.U.S.A." at Augustana College on that theme.

"Given true facts, they tend to get pretty charged up and excited," she says.

The Concord Coalition was founded by political polar opposites, former U.S. Sens. Paul Tsongas, D-Mass., and Warren Rudman, R-N.H., and seeks to avoid party politics.

Imhof explains more about what her organization does and some of the policies it advocates:

1. What's the mission of the Concord Coalition?

"A big part of our grassroots outreach deals with youth at the time they're at the upper level of college. They're really starting to catch wind of how things work in Washington. We talk about the tsunami of seniors starting to enter the rosters of Social Security and Medicare while fewer people will be in the work force.

"There are quite a few policy shops that focus on budget. We're able to go out into the communities. We don't only focus on campuses. We do rotary clubs, civic organizations."

2. What's your organization's stand on health care reform?

"We choose not to come out in favor of bills, but talk about aspects of bills that we think are more helpful in terms of the long term.

The Senate version has something that would set up an independent advisory body that would come in and make tough decisions about Medicare's long-term sustainability, made up of health care experts. It's very difficult to cut, but easy to give. They'd begin to dive into tough decisions.

"We're not against expanding coverage, but the current legislation is mostly about expansion but not about payment reform. ...

"We also support the part of the Senate bill imposing a surtax on some of the wealthiest Americans. The challenge is that it might set up sort of a class-fare and make it look like a welfare program."

3. What about other programs, such as Social Security and Medicare?

"We should consider raising the age limit. Not only is that sort of more to the true meaning of these programs, but because people are living longer, they're also living healthier. That means more productivity we can tap into in the work force. That's economic growth. ... We want to make sure sure middle-age people or youth get involved in the conversation. If we don't make small changes now, the youth will be paying twice as much."

4. What can people do to help become more informed about the effect of the national debt?

"We suggest, of course, that they visit our Web site and sign up for periodic updates. It's very helpful.

"Coming to this movie and listening to the dialogue afterward. Talking about their own budgets with their families. The more they read, the more energized they get.

"They can write letters to the editor."

5. How can the national debt become a burden on the economy?

"We have been financed very heavily by foreigners. At what point is it when China will say, 'We no longer have faith or trust in you to pay us back'?

"Also, the interest that we have to pay is part of our mandatory spending. We already pay a lot in debt, $170 billion last year just on interest. There are low rates now, but that won't last.

"That means that for the discretionary spending categories - education, the environment - all these other very important things are getting squeezed automatically."

Reach Sheri Levisay at slevisay@argusleader.com.

Additional Facts If You Go

What: The Concord Coalition presentation of the movie "I.O.U.S.A." about the national debt, followed by a question-and-answer period.
Where: The Morrison Commons Back Alley off of the Grange Avenue parking lot at Augustana College.
When: 6 p.m. today.
Who: Sara Imhof of the Concord Coalition and Augustana professor Bob Wright.