An opportunity to 'Fix the Debt' for ourselves

Have you ever wondered why, when politicians are campaigning for our votes, they promise to represent the people’s interests? And, then, when they step over the threshold that is Congress, they represent political parties and not the people?

That’s what we see in Congress now, and have seen for years, resulting in a divisive split that has strangled compromise and killed common sense.

This strident allegiance to party and not to the people has also stalled any real hope that Congress can settle on how to fix the national debt.

Enter: Fix the Debt, a bipartisan, private, grassroots, business-supported, multi-state campaign to wake up Congress and jangle a repayment plan.

The campaign is chaired by Maya MacGuineas, who is president of the nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and its members include a range of business, academic, community and political leaders whose motto is “inaction is not an option.”

The campaign, which has raised $40 million to staff coalitions and organize public meetings across the country, is supported by leaders who are, quite simply, scared of the consequences of doing nothing to fix the debt.

Two of those leaders, co-chairing the Maine contingent, are former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci and former Republican Senate President Rick Bennett.

These men say that members of the campaign are, collectively, grasping an opportunity to “bring some maturity and leadership to Congress” in the style of Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan.

Hear. Hear.

Baldacci and Bennett, who both say they still bear political scars from their shared battle for Congress in 1994, have come together, they say, to join what they believe is a sincere cause to address the inaction of the United States government. That the Fix the Debt campaign can bring conversation and ideas where there is not and are none in Congress.

They also both say that this campaign will give ordinary people a chance to speak up about why fixing the debt is important to them.

To do that, Fix the Debt will host a series of public meetings over the next several months, including one scheduled at Thomas College in Waterville and additional meetings to be held in Lewiston, Portland and Bangor. The very best ideas and suggestions from these meetings, and similar meetings to be held in other states, will be compiled into some kind of final recommendation to Congress.

Given the expertise that is being poured into the endeavor, our guess is that the final recommendation will be chock-full of good stuff. It will, certainly, follow the prongs of the existing and worthy Simpson-Bowles proposal since Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles launched Fix the Debt and organized its financing.

Even if this is a not-so-transparent campaign to gain public support for legislation that has not yet gained traction in Congress, the broad theory of Simpson-Bowles makes sense: Rein in spending, raise revenue and eliminate entitlements to pay down $4 trillion to $6 trillion debt over the next decade.

It’ll be the details that must be hammered out.

The campaign has been called a “corporate charade” and an exercise in back-scratching because it is composed so heavily of business interests, and there is serious suspicion that any solution reached by this group will favor tax breaks over revenue building, and will favor private over public interests.

But, who knows. Maybe, without political division and party cronyism, Fix the Debt can do what Congress won’t: fight for the people and actually fix the debt.

We hope this campaign can do that, but there is a major stumbling block facing it.

Even if the Fix the Debt campaign hammers out absolutely every minuscule detail with perfection, the campaign has no authority to force Congress to implement its recommendations. Congress can, should it wish, accept the recommendations and put them on a shelf, which is just slightly better than ignoring them altogether.

Bennett and Baldacci don’t think that will happen.

They sincerely believe that Congress, once it hears the grassroots cry to reduce the debt, will act. That cry has not yet been heard loudly enough, they said, to get any real attention.

We’ve heard the cry, so it’s hard to believe Congress has not, but elected leaders aren’t exactly leading the charge to fix the debt, so any advice that motivated people outside Congress feel they can offer should be welcomed.

We welcome it and look forward to the insight, compromise and solutions a group of people not burdened by partisanship can accomplish.

Congress has certainly made it clear it is not up to the task.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Comments

Zack Lenhert's picture

Why does "Fix the Debt" want

Why does "Fix the Debt" want to "fix" Social Security? SS doesn't add a dime to the deficit. It's completely funded through payroll taxes. Exactly ZERO dollars are borrowed to pay for Social Security. In fact, over $2 trillion dollars of the $16 trillion national debt is owned by the SS fund, more than is owned by China.

I'm on board.

I'm glad that the LSJ has fortified their position on the battle this country finds itself in. If Baldacci and Bennett can join together (fierce political rivals), why can't the Republicans and Democrats in DC?

How do we join a campaign like this?? Do we have to be a former elected official?

Steve  Dosh's picture

Fred ? Q: Why can't the

Fred ? Q: Why can't the Republicans and Democrats in DC? A: Because of the implacable Republicans . This time around , if the Democrats do nothing ( like the Republicans usually do ) they win . What's the incentive to argue with them ? Just my opinion /s Steve

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Steve, By definition, the

Steve,
By definition, the opposing party, well, opposes. If not, then the house and senate would comprise of all democrats or republicans.

David Lingard Jr's picture

guns.......

I believe is all about who is caring the guns in this country.......they will do anything to get in and promise you they will help with anything.......they are mostly all lairs.......they stand by themselves not us as in the USA.......it is here i go again who can fill up there friends pockets with monies fastest to gain respect from the wrong people......it has never changed when they say it has there are still corrupted people in the law offices and and the rich.....as one example i will not quote but here goes Romney with that whole bull crap of only being a president those who pay taxes......basically when you think about it tax payers line there pockets with monies never about where the money needs to go like medicare and social security or our country the homeless or the elderly etc.....the list goes on.......all you hear about basically is who gets paid what who gets kick backs and who gets raises and about how many jobs get lost and no one can afford to put meals on the table anymore........but really you do not hear about who can not put meals on there tables or not that does not matter......yeah we have food stamps and state aids but they are always talking about cut backs and what needs to be done to help the state......no they are the ones who are supposed to represent the state then really when they worry about state and country they are actually worrying about hmm what can i do for myself to better myself and my family........the mess with who actually voted me in to office they are not needy and do not need anything.......WRONG time to start thinking globally you representatives who are in office........i say y'all need a wake up call and monies needs to be taken from your salivating mouths of the thoughts of what can i do to leave my legacy and better myself.........y'all are not the smartest ones on the totem pole here we were all taught by the same people who we call teachers........they teach us of wrong and right and when you all go out of school you train yourself my country owes me for some reason........WRONG again reality check you all could not even survive with out those paychecks and kick backs you did not earn those positions you are all lairs and need to be put in check. i am sorry for going off but this is something that people talk about all the time and no one listens to us the american people.

Zack Lenhert's picture

...paragraphs are your

...paragraphs are your friend.

Steve  Dosh's picture

l o l , Zack ?  fonix is phun

l o l , Zack ?  fonix is phun , too :)

 's picture

This response is proof positive ...

... that the US public school system is in deeper trouble than anyone suspected.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You noticed, eh?

You noticed, eh?

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

A good start.

Simpson-Bowles is probably a good place to start. The fact that both parties hate it makes it doubly attractive. They should probably start there and give both parties a chance to tweak it once. The fact that it was rejected before makes sense also. We were in a deep recession then and that is not the time to retrench government services. We are in a better place now and it would be a good time to put in these measures that would help us pay off our debt and force the upper 1% to carry their fair share or to hit the road. It is also high time the government looks at the waste and cronyism in the defense budget. $800 million for schools in Iraq that were never built, $89 million for health centers that were never used: the time for these sweetheart contractor deals needs to come to an end. Even the President of Afghanistan is complaining about corruption among these contractors. And that is saying a lot coming from him.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Good luck!

Good luck!

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