As former members of Congress, we both understand the need for compromise when confronting the nations most challenging problems. Our terms in office taught us that when the two parties confront a difficult issue, oftentimes Democrats and Republicans really arent as far apart as they may think; it is usually possible to achieve a principled compromise without compromising principles.
By Jim Slattery and Tom Tauke
Special to The Star
We both feel as though this is the case with the ongoing budget battles in Washington. At the center of these debates is the countrys soaring national debt. Our massive debt burden continues to be a drag on the nations economy because lawmakers have yet to come to a bipartisan agreement on how to reverse its unsustainable trajectory. The American people deserve to have elected leaders who will work together to reach a deficit reduction agreement that promotes economic growth and sets the country on a more responsible fiscal course.
The national debt is, relative to the economy, roughly twice its historical average and is the largest it has been since the immediate aftermath of World War II.
It is on track to equal the size of an entire years worth of our countrys economic output by 2039. No economy can expect to remain competitive with debt levels at unprecedented heights. If we continue down this current path we can expect unemployment, interest and inflation rates to rise. That will result in reduced federal revenues and ever-higher interest payments on the debt.
'This year, we will spend $223 billion to service the national debt, and in 20 years that figure will climb to $1.8 trillion. To put this in perspective, the combined federal budgets for education, transportation, food stamps and Head Start was $250 billion in 2012. These numbers are staggering and illustrate the point that reaching a solution to the nations coming debt crisis is long overdue. That wont happen unless policymakers from both sides of the aisle find common ground.
The next few months hold several opportunities for policymakers to work across the aisle. With the continuing resolution legislation that funds the federal government expiring at the end of September, the race is on to avoid a government shutdown without adding to the deficit.
Also on the horizon is the need to raise the countrys debt limit, the total amount the government may borrow. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew recently informed Congress that we would hit the debt limit sometime in mid-October, meaning lawmakers have very little time to resolve this issue. A default of the nations credit could be economically catastrophic a reckless path that is no substitute for actions that thoughtfully address the areas of the budget that are fueling our debt problem.
There remains a need for tangible, real-world activism to overcome our budget woes, which is why we are both members of the Campaign to Fix the Debts Congressional Fiscal Leadership Council. This bipartisan group of former members of Congress is united in the belief that addressing our growing debt is critical to the long-term fiscal health of the nation. In fact, it is a matter of saving our republic. We encourage you to visit www.fixthedebt.org to learn more.
We know that compromise centered on creating a stronger American economy is within reach, but it will take hard work from all parties to finish the job. Join us as we make a renewed push to fix the debt.
Former congressmen Jim Slattery, a Kansas Democrat, and Tom Tauke, an Iowa Republican, now live in Washington, D.C.