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‘Fix the Debt’ launches grassroots campaign in Seattle

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Oct. 25, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
October 26, 2012 10:52 am

The federal deficit and debt may get lip service from Congress and candidates for higher office. But a nonpartisan national group – Fix the Debt – is hoping to revive ideas from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in a bid to create pressure for action on debt issues by the lame-duck Congress soon after the Nov. 6 election.

The group set down its first local roots in Washington state Thursday with a press event in Seattle. State Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, joined the kickoff and is serving as co-chair along with Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt.

“If we are going to reduce the national debt, we have got to decide to do this before anything else. Our leaders in Washington need to make debt reduction their highest priority,” Hobbs said in a prepared statement.

The group’s press release is here. Hobbs full prepared remarks are here.

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform put out a report in 2010 that couched the national fiscal problem this way:

In 2010, federal spending was nearly 24 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the value of all goods and services produced in the economy. Only during World War II was federal spending a larger part of the economy. Tax revenues stood at 15 percent of GDP this year, the lowest level since 1950. The gap between spending and revenue – the budget deficit – was just under nine percent of GDP.
Since the last time our budget was balanced in 2001, the federal debt has increased dramatically, rising from 33 percent of GDP to 62 percent of GDP in 2010. The escalation was driven in large part by two wars and a slew of fiscally irresponsible policies, along with a deep economic downturn. We have arrived at the moment of truth, and neither political party is without blame.

Former U.S. Rep. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and Erskine Bowles, a Democrat and former chief of staff to ex-President Bill Clinton, led the commission’s work and offered recommendations in this report that included a mix of budget cuts and tax increases. Fix the Debt is picking up where that group, created by President Obama, left off.

“The Fix the Debt effort is supportive of the Simpson / Bowles approach to deficit reduction, is working hard to avoid going off the fiscal cliff and is bi-partisan,” said Paul Berendt, who works for a consulting firm that has been working with the new organization. Berendt said group participants are open to any idea that can be used to reduce the federal deficit and that no idea should be taken off the table.

The so-called fiscal cliff refers to the roughly $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect early next year if Congress cannot agree on an alternative plan.

“The big push is to avoid the fiscal cliff essentially in the lame-duck Congress,” said Berendt, who is a former state Democratic Party chairman. “But it also is to get off to the right start in repositioning everyone’s thinking in making debt-reduction a primary issue heading into the lame duck and the new Congress.’’

Fix the Debt is reminiscent of the Concord Coalition that was more active a few decades ago when the size of the debt might have appeared quaint next to the $16 trillion figure of today.

UPDATE: Details about the Concord Coalition, which remains active nationally, are here.

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