Civic leaders, top CEOs and leading budget experts met in Washington, D.C. today to discuss the national debt and America's unsustainable fiscal trajectory, and to announce the launch of The Campaign to Fix the Debt, a nonpartisan coalition to put America on a better fiscal path. The Campaign was announced at a press briefing at the National Press Club this afternoon.
Participants in the event included:
Participants discussed the need to replace the current series of temporary patches and one-year extensions with a real solution built on thoughtful economic policy.
The Campaign to Fix the Debt will serve as an educational initiative, mobilizing key communities — including leaders from business, government, and policy — and people all across America, to build support for a comprehensive plan to fix our long-term debt and deficits. Any effective fiscal plan will have to be large enough to tackle all parts of the budget — including entitlement programs and the tax code — and must be structured in a way that helps to grow the economy and protect the most vulnerable.
"We need our leaders to make these hard choices, these politically difficult choices. I'm confident that if this campaign succeeds in getting politicians to put partisanship aside and pull together, rather than pull apart, that the future of this country is very, very bright," said Erskine Bowles, Co-Founder of the Campaign and Co-Chairman of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. "But I'm equally sure that if we continue to kick the can down the road, duck the tough choices, shirk our responsibilities, then America is well on its way to becoming a second rate power."
"Without significant, fundamental and comprehensive reforms, the debt will reach 90 percent of the economy within 10 years and exceed 250 percent by the early 2040s," Campaign Co-Chairman Senator Judd Gregg said. "These crippling levels of debt threaten the strength of our economy, our standard of living, and the prosperity of future generations."
"We simply cannot afford all the promises we've made," added Co-Chairman Governor Ed Rendell. "But, if we do this right, we can make reforms in a way that protects the most vulnerable, prioritizes important investments in areas like infrastructure and education, and enhances economic growth."
The Campaign will tap the expertise and commitment of a broad coalition of supporters, all of whom see a debt deal as the most pressing issue currently facing the U.S. It will run in Washington, D.C. and across the country at the grassroots level. Operational efforts will go through the summer and fall of 2012, during the lame duck session of Congress and into the spring of 2013, or until a deal is passed.
"The debt problem can be addressed one of two ways," said Honeywell Chairman and CEO Dave Cote. "The first is proactively and thoughtfully, the way a great nation does. The second is to wait until the bond market forces us to do it. This is not just a Wall Street problem. If 10 year U.S. Treasury bond yields hit 7 percent, home mortgage rates will reach 10 percent, and car loans hit 13 percent. That's a Main Street problem."
Paul Stebbins, Executive Chairman of World Fuel Services, noted, "U.S. markets are currently operating in a state of uncertainty due to rising debt and the approaching fiscal cliff. Such uncertainty is causing businesses to sit on the reserves, limiting potential investment in the economy and in human capital."
Past President of the World Bank Group Ambassador Robert Zoellick said, "Australia's Foreign Minister Bob Carr hit the nail on the head when he said 'The U.S. is one budget deal away from restoring its global pre-eminence.' A slow growth economy can't lead the world. The United States needs to get its financial house in order to play its rightful role in an international economy facing multiple dangers."
"We face two fiscal challenges — growing the economy faster and reducing the looming debt. The threat of a serious and devastating debt crisis in the U.S. is real, and can be ignored no longer," said Alice Rivlin, founding director of the Congressional Budget Office. "Failure to act would be devastating, but, if we get it right, we have a huge opportunity to restore America's economic vitality."
Steve Rattner, Chairman of Willett Advisors, said, "We've already waited too long to solve the debt crisis. The more this country continues to borrow beyond its means, the more our leaders are hurting future generations, which will be saddled with insurmountable economic hurdles."
"America's long-term debt is simply unsustainable and threatens our economic future. With the fiscal cliff approaching at the end of the year, the time to find a solution to our debt crisis is right now. The period of denial is over — the American people clearly want Congress and the President to come together on a fiscal compromise, and Washington should not let this opportunity pass," said Peter G. Peterson of the Peterson Foundation.
"On fiscal matters, neither political party can impose its will on the other, and that it is not likely to change after the election. Successfully tackling our fiscal challenges requires Members of Congress to come together across party lines with a balanced plan that will strengthen the economy, reassure markets, and save future generations from an unbearable debt burden," said former Senator Sam Nunn. "There are good people across the political spectrum who recognize this in putting together the Simpson-Bowles and the Domenici-Rivlin plans. There are many Members of Congress who are willing to work together, but they get hit hard from both sides and need a foundation of citizen support. The Campaign to Fix the Debt hopes to give these folks in Washington, D.C. and across the country the support they need to work together to put our nation's interest above political parties and to strengthen America to protect our children's future."
Maya MacGuineas, President of The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, stated, "This will be an unprecedented effort with business leaders, former Members of Congress, and experts from both sides of the aisle coming together to speak out and support a plan to fix the debt. But most importantly, it will engage the American people — who in many ways are well ahead of policymakers on the need to come together and tackle this challenge — to help get the job done. This is a campaign we cannot afford to lose."
About The Campaign to Fix the Debt
The Campaign to Fix the Debt is a non-partisan movement to put America on a better fiscal and economic path. We come together from a variety of social, economic and political perspectives, around the common belief that America's growing federal debt threatens our future and that we must address it. The Campaign will mobilize key communities — including leaders from business, government, and policy — and people all across America who want to see elected officials step up to solve our nation's fiscal challenges. Recognizing that the time for action is now, the Campaign will work in Washington, D.C. and around the country to educate people on the need for a comprehensive plan to fix our long-term debt and deficits. In our history, America has always been able to tackle its greatest challenges — we are confident we can rise to the occasion again.
For more information on The Campaign to Fix the Debt please visit www.fixthedebt.org.