At a public forum in Wisconsin, local policymakers, students and others last week heard about the importance of civil discussion and bipartisan cooperation in trying to solve the nation’s budget challenges. Former U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) spoke at the event, which was co-sponsored by the Bipartisan issues Group, The Concord Coalition, Fix the Debt and The Can Kicks Back.
Despite their different and sometimes clashing perspectives, both of the federal lawmakers expressed deep concerns over the federal deficit, the challenges it poses to the U.S. economy, and the unfair fiscal burdens that could be passed on to young Americans. The forum was held Thursday night in Madison.
Walker, president and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative, outlined the fiscal, economic and demographic difficulties facing the country. When the government consistently spends far more than it brings in, he cautioned, Americans can expect a day or reckoning.
“The federal government has grown too big, promised too much and needs to restructure,” he said.
Johnson, who along with some other Republican senators recently dined with President Obama, said he found the frank conversation at the dinner heartening.
At the forum, Johnson described the tax code as “a travesty.” Noting that members of Congress in both parties seek American prosperity, he said: “Let’s at least start by not questioning each other’s motives.”
Pocan said that as a new member of Congress, he found it hard to watch how Washington sometimes failed to work as it should. Too often, he said, elected officials simply talk past each other.
“The House has a budget, the Senate has a budget, the president has a budget,” Pocan said. The crucial next step, he added, is for elected officials to sit down together and produce a national budget to guide federal policy.