September 21, 2014

Fiscal Solutions: Too Important to Just Leave to the Politicians

Earlier this month in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, experts on the federal budget emphasized the need for public engagement, long-range thinking and a range of policy changes to meet the country’s fiscal challenges.

“We can’t solve this problem doing just one thing,” said Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings. She and three other experts spoke at a series of programs in Portsmouth, the fourth city to be visited this fall by The Concord Coalition’s Fiscal Solutions Tour. The tour is supported by The Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

Scores of community leaders, business executives, students, retirees and others attended three Portsmouth programs on Oct. 7. Their questions to the panel of experts reflected a range of perspectives and a keen interest in learning what average citizens could do to foster constructive change.

“Public engagement is real important,” said Robert Bixby, Concord’s executive director. Because they currently have such distrust of politicians, he said, average citizens must become involved in the search for fiscal solutions. If they are not, he warned, they will not trust whatever proposals come from elected officials.

David Walker, former comptroller general of the United States, said he was launching an effort called the Comeback America Initiative to help citizens understand that the country must “change course or crash.”

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, echoed the call for the public to become more knowledgeable and involved in encouraging political leaders to take appropriate action soon: “We’ve got to get our candidates, our elected officials, to understand these problems, and make it ‘good politics’ to do the right thing. . . . We've lost the luxury of time.”

The next two Fiscal Solutions Tour stops will be in Philadelphia on Friday, Oct. 22, and in Chicago on Friday, Nov. 12.