Opinion Columns & Blogs

Jim Slattery: Tell members of Congress to ‘fix the debt’

Our temporary reprieve from the debt ceiling expired on May 19, and our leaders in Washington, D.C., seem content to let us hit our debt limit yet again.

While the government can ward off catastrophe for another few months by moving money around and employing other budgetary tricks, unless our elected leaders come to an agreement to increase the debt limit and put our country’s finances on a sustainable path for the future, our economy will pay the price.

Relative to the size of our economy, our national debt is at levels that we have not seen since the period immediately after World War II. And though it may drop slightly over the next few years because of the quick fixes Washington recently has put in place – such as the fiscal-cliff tax increases and the sequester spending cuts – these policies do not address our real long-term problems, and 10 years from now our debt will be climbing fast yet again.

Debt of this magnitude is a real problem, both for the current generation and, even more significantly, the future generations that stand to inherit it. Oversize debt burdens like ours eventually lead to increasing rates of inflation, higher interest rates on borrowing for families and businesses, and even increasing rates of unemployment.

Recent rosier-than-expected economic progress has led some politicians to suggest that we can put off dealing with our debt until we find ourselves standing on the edge of another fiscal crisis. However, now is the time to come together on a clearheaded, commonsense plan that addresses all areas of the budget and puts our economy on a sustainable track.

Of course, in order to be politically viable, any deal must secure buy-in from both sides of the aisle and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. But both sides already agree on more than they like to admit, and I am confident that with a little more work, a comprehensive deficit-reduction deal is achievable.

Such a deal must curb the growth in the costs of our entitlement programs to ensure that they remain sustainable over the long term while protecting the most vulnerable. It must include an overhaul of our overly complicated tax system in order to simplify it and make it more competitive, even while raising revenue by closing economy-distorting loopholes. Such a deal must replace the broad cuts of the sequester with intelligent, targeted savings that eliminate wasteful spending. Most important, such a deal must put our debt on a clear downward path relative to our economy for the foreseeable future.

I urge all Kansans who care about these issues to join me in the Campaign to Fix the Debt, a nonpartisan group of more than 350,000 citizen-activists from around the country who are urging Washington to put together a comprehensive plan that puts our economy back on track. Learn more at www.fixthedebt.org. Join the fight and call your members of Congress to let them know that you want a real solution, not another last-minute Band-Aid that doesn’t deal with the true drivers of our debt. Tell them you want to protect our economic recovery and put America on a brighter path. Tell them you want to fix the debt.