July 24, 2014

Deficit Hawks Swoop Down on Washington

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress got a lot of good advice recently when representatives of The Concord Coalition’s fiscal advisory councils visited Capitol Hill to present their recommendations.

The basic message: Elected officials must make some dramatic changes to put the country on a more responsible fiscal course, protect our economic future and avoid saddling our children and grandchildren with massive debt.

Advisory council members from across the country -- Atlanta, Iowa, Milwaukee, Northern California and Philadelphia -- met with members of Congress and their staffs as part of The Concord Coalition’s National Conference of Fiscal Stewardship this month in Washington. The Fiscal Advisory Council of Northern Virginia had already met with several members of Congress in the fall. Representatives from the University of Denver, where the Fiscal Stewardship Project featured a special student engagement initiative this year, also attended the conference and met with elected officials.

In the conference’s opening program on Capitol Hill, advisory council leaders outlined the fiscal challenges facing the country, and Concord released its report on the first year of its Fiscal Stewardship Project.  That report summarizes the findings of the six advisory councils and includes their individual reports as well. 

As the reports underscore, there is an urgent need to reform the entitlement programs, cut unnecessary spending and curb the rising costs of health care. Members of the advisory councils also expressed a willingness to pay higher taxes if the money were committed to deficit reduction. While they understood that such tax increases and short-run spending cuts might need to wait until after the economy had strengthened, they thought that the discussion should be taking place and plans prepared now.

Advisory members voiced considerable frustration and disappointment with elected officials in Washington because they have failed to move forward on these issues.

The conference also gave advisory council members the chance to hear from a number of officials and budget experts: U.S. Rep Frank Wolf (R-VA); Alan Krueger, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for economic policy and chief economist; Melissa Merson, associate director for communications for the Congressional Budget Office; Susan Irving, director for federal budget analysis for the Government Accountability Office, and Ed Lorenzen, senior policy advisor to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

The advisory councils are planning to continue work in the coming year to monitor their representatives in Congress, help more people in their communities understand the nation’s fiscal difficulties, and encourage greater citizen activism.

Media coverage of the conference included reports on Talk Radio News Service, the CQ Budget Tracker and CNNMoney.com, which covered the Stewardship report recommendations and conducted on-camera interviews with several advisory council members while they were in Washington.