'System Is Broken': Chamber Program Focuses on National Debt
The United States spends $22 for every $8 it collects, and borrows 41 cents for every dollar it spends.
“That’s just a losing proposition,” said former U.S. Rep. Dave McCurdy, president of the American Gas Association and co-chairman of the Coalition for a Fiscally Sound America.
McCurdy, a conservative Democrat from Oklahoma who served in Congress from 1981-1995, talked about the importance of tackling America’s growing national debt during a Moore County Chamber of Commerce event last week at Pinehurst Resort.
The debt stood at more than $15.5 trillion as of Monday afternoon, or almost $50,000 for every man, woman and child in the country.
“The system is broken. Washington has failed us,” McCurdy said. “The stark reality is that we may be faced with the first generation in memory that will have a future less promising than their parents.’”
McCurdy told the 70 business people and politicians in attendance that the federal budget process has become so political that leaders are “punished for putting forth solutions ... so we end up with political paralysis.”
“It’s become less about solutions and more about partisan politics,” he said.
McCurdy noted that he and some fellow former congressmen formed the Coalition for a Fiscally Sound America because they got tired of the rhetoric.
“We’ve tried to turn that rhetoric into action instead of kicking the same can down the road,” he said. “This issue matters. Public policy needs to be aligned with economic reality. We need common sense solutions that reward independent thinking and courage, and foster working together.”
McCurdy called on attendees to help fix the problem by holding elected leaders accountable.
“Let your voice be heard. It only works when it’s grassroots, when it comes from the bottom up,” he said. “We’re all in this together, and we have to be all in to make it work.”
McCurdy added that millions of Americans have had to “tighten their belts and do more with less” during the recent recession, “and so should Washington.”
“Shared sacrifice is the only plan of the size and scope that truly address our financial crisis,” he said.
While Congress is debating how to create fiscal balance without slowing the economy, the federal budget deficit continues to grow, as revenues decrease thanks to weak economic growth and stagnant unemployment numbers.
As a result, the state of the economy is arguably the central issue of the 2012 presidential election.
The recent recession also forced most state governments across the country to confront their worst revenue declines on record, resulting in massive budget shortfalls. State revenues are on the rebound but remain below 2008 peak levels.
It should come as no surprise, then, that a recent survey of top U.S. economists found that government deficits are their biggest long-term concern.
Asked to rank the seriousness of several economic problems — with one meaning “no concern” and five equaling “extreme concern” — the federal deficit was the largest worry, with an average score of 4.1. State and local government budget deficits and debt was next at 3.4.
McCurdy’s keynote address was followed by a panel discussion featuring Pat McCrory, a Republican gubernatorial candidate; Moore County Commissioner Nick Picerno; Ken Lewis, president and CEO of FirstCarolinaCare; and Greg Casey, president of BIPAC, a bipartisan Washington, D.C.-based political action committee whose goal is to elect pro-prosperity candidates to higher office.
McCrory, who lost to Gov. Beverly Perdue in a tight race four years ago, said the discussion that McCurdy suggested must trickle down from the federal level to the state and local levels.
“It’s not just a federal government issue,” McCrory said. “When there’s no money, there’s no money. You can’t just keep spending it. The bad news is there’s a lot of pain here. The good news is that it’s going to force change. We’re at that point. We’ve got to do it now.”
Lewis noted that when Medicare and Medicaid get “squeezed” at the federal and state levels, health care providers receive lower reimbursements from insurance companies.
“We tax our businesses every time we make cuts,” Lewis said. “It’s just behind the scenes. You’re all paying for it. It’s no free lunch.”
Picerno said he and his fellow commissioners have been able to reduce the county’s operating budget from $100 million to $82 million in the past three years.
“If you take time to look through a budget, you can find ways to save money,” Picerno said.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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