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Looking to the president for debt-fixing leadership

President Barack Obama
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Our nation, citizens and small businesses alike, need a bold, comprehensive, thoughtful debt plan where nothing is held sacred and everybody puts beltway politics aside.

In our businesses we work with clients who need outside analytical eyes to help find the solutions for their biggest challenges. Congress and the president need to take this kind of de-political approach to our nation’s rapidly mounting $16 trillion debt.

Teresa Daly
Teresa Daly

Tonight’s State of the Union affords President Obama an ideal opportunity put some details behind his inaugural commitment to fixing the debt. The nation would be well served if he were to offer up a truly bipartisan vision that makes the tough but necessary choices required to fix our debt.

Our nation, citizens and small businesses alike, need a bold, comprehensive, thoughtful plan where nothing is held sacred and everybody puts beltway politics aside. Here’s what we’ll be looking for in the State of the Union.

No across-the-board cuts

First and foremost a viable alternative to "sequestration." Designed to motivate Washington to a true solution, these indiscriminate across-the-board spending cuts have failed. Instead everyone in D.C. is looking for a way out. These massive spending cuts do nothing to address our biggest debt drivers – an outdated tax code and growing entitlement spending – and scheduled for March 1st sequestration cuts threaten more than 10,000 Minnesotans’ jobs and 5 percent of state budget support for things like roads, housing and higher education. Our still recovering economy cannot withstand the impacts and they do precious little to address our long-term debt issues.

Last week the president asked for a delay but tonight he can lay out an alternative, a truly comprehensive debt plan. Until that leadership is provided and the groundwork is laid, Washington leaders will seemingly continue to manage our national books through a series of self-created fiscal crises, delays and moving goal-post deadline. All the while our fiscal problems will continue to fester and become even harder to correct.

The kind of economic uncertainty and instability that results is exactly what small business owners don’t need. It inhibits growth, undermines confidence and discourages businesses from taking the risks of building new facilities or hiring more workers.

Obama can lead the charge for a solution

Chuck Slocum
Chuck Slocum

President Obama is in a unique position to lead the inside-the-beltway charge for a solution. Americans want the president and Congress to rise above the political divides and help America get on a more stable economic footing.

Failure will not only disappoint but also do even more damage to the business and jobs climate than the short-term cliffs and crises we’ve already endured. Today the national debt is larger, relative to our total economy, than at any point since the years immediately following World War II, and it’s growing. Interest on the debt – nearly a quarter-trillion dollars a year – is larger than the combined federal budget for education, housing, Head Start and food stamps! Growing debt, and the payments to service that debt, threatens to squeeze programs for our most vulnerable citizens and small-business supports right out of the budget.

Our leaders in Washington must build a path forward that addresses our short-term fiscal challenges while securing a strong fiscal future, and the president has the chance to take the first steps tonight. A truly visionary plan would be bold – smartly tackling the biggest drivers of our debt. While such a plan would reduce some spending for discretionary or low-priority programs, to have the important impact we all need the plan will have to focus more importantly on slowing the growth of entitlement spending, controling federal health-care costs for an increasingly aging population and structurally reforming our loophole-riddled tax code.

Good politics, good policy

As members of Minnesota’s Campaign to Fix the Debt we’re dedicated to helping our leaders in Washington hear the voices of Minnesotans of all walks of life and political stripes calling for change. We believe a comprehensive bipartisan plan that puts our debt on a downward trajectory is not only good policy for the nation, but good politics for Minnesotans.

We’re hopeful that President Obama will lay out a solution-oriented path that all our Minnesota representatives in D.C. can follow and support. And we encourage Minnesotans to show their support by signing the Citizen’s Petition to fix the debt at www.fixthedebt.org.

Teresa Daly is a former City Council member in Burnsville and DFL congressional candidate, she currently runs her own business, Navigate Forward. Chuck Slocum is a former chair of the Independent Republican Party, executive director & COO of the Minnesota Business Partnership and currently runs the business consultancy Williston Group. Both are steering committee members of the Campaign to Fix the Debt – Minnesota.

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Comments (7)

The extent of fiscal delusion

The extent of fiscal delusion in DC can be gauged by the reaction to Obamacare.

The issue you say is entitlements and out-dated taxation models.

Well, a very large portion of entitlement spending is driven by medical spending. There is the direct costs of Medicaid, Medicare, and the VA system. But there also are the health insurance of federal employees and components of welfare and Social Security costs that are driven by medical cost increases. Obamacare takes a few, small steps to try to bring this under control and there are loud, continuing screams of outrage at socialism, death-panels and other fakery.

This embedded medical cost is THE key to the future of the American economy. Couple significant changes in "public sector" medical spending with the "private sector" medical spending and you have a double-barrelled answer to the deficit an debt answer---direct reduction of deficits and debt in federal spending PLUS increased revenue from a newly competitive private sector that does not have to deal with carrying the costs of a "twice-as-expensive" medical system.

But hey, that doesn't fit into any discussion in DC at this time. It's the same old crap about "waste, fraud and abuse".

The Republican party has taken a very stalwart "let no Obama-touched program proceed" and there is no sign that has abated.

In issues where it is clear that the Republican party electoral base is being diminished (among Latino voters), there might be changes, but "heaven forfend!" if it can be labeled as an Obama-proposed measure.

So why should the onus be placed on Obama? Is he the only "grown-up" in the room?

Obama and leadership

I am still waiting for the President to lead on the problem of entitlement spending. We have gone through 4 years of Obama and two campaigns without a proposal from him that deals with this huge problem.
What we will hear tonight are more “code words” that will satisfy the DFL with the absence of any concrete proposals that address the entitlement problem.
A bold comprehensive plan will be missing. Many of the DFL will enjoy playing the game “kick the can” while failing to deal with the entitlements.
I am glad that the writer of this article is willing to acknowledge the entitlement issue.
I agree the tax and spending issues need to be addressed as well. I would probably disagree with the writer’s solutions. However, until the entitlement problem is addressed, the debt issue will remain.

Incomprehensible

....I am still waiting for the President to lead on the problem of entitlement spending.....

Hmmm, were you awake for any of the ten thousand times when Republican candidates and their surrogates decried Obama and Obamacare for cutting billions in Medicare spending?

Were you awake for any of the Republican outrage at proposed tax increases on the wealthy?

That is exactly what budget balancing consists of --- cuts based on reform accompanied by increases in revenue.

You can't pretend to want a balanced budget and deny both means of achieving it.

The problem

The problem with this article is that it pretends to come to grips with the issues, while carefully avoiding them. The problem we have isn't with entitlements, that's only a symptom. The problem is that our population is growing older and way too few commentators really want to deal with that in explicit terms, preferring the convenient euphemism, "entitlement reform".

The fact is, in his first term, President Obama went way out on a limb in dealing with these issues. He is blamed, sometimes by me it should be said, for not going far enough, for not being bolder in his approach. But the fact is, it required the commitment of all his political capital to get as far as he did, And those who criticize him for not solving all the problems are the same folks who fought him with all their might to prevent him from making progress on the problems he did address.

But it's not too late. As Nancy Pelosi famously said, we won't know what's in Obamacare until it's actually put into effect. I am confident that it will be full of problems and in much need of improvement. Instead of complaining about the lack of leadership, maybe all of us would be well served to follow the leadership the president does provide.and maybe learn a little bit about what leadership means in a polarized society.

As Long

As one side of this debate is not able to rise above their "we MUST win, therefore you MUST lose," mindset,...

as if politics were a high school football game against our rivals from the next city or the next county,...

and come to realize that politics is the way we try to work out the best possible ways of running our country and dealing with the problems that arise,...

that "conservative" only if we win will we PROVE we're better than they are. Only if we prevent "them" from doing anything, no matter how necessary or excellent, will we feel vindicated, and that we were right all along.

Unless and until we finally realize that the one who dies with the most toys does NOT win (and very likely loses all - even eternity, itself),...

and start living as if accomplishing what needs to be accomplished what needs to be accomplished in a civilized society is FAR MORE IMPORTANT than individuals becoming fabulously wealthy or politically powerful (or both),...

we ALL lose.

How this article can skip over

The issues of extremely costly and unnecessary wars and totally bloated military budgets is a ridiculous oversight.

The Party of Debilitating Disarray

The Republican Party is in such disarray that they feel their only option they have is to play the obstructionist with the only answer they can agree on is "NO". They don't know who they are or where they are going but they have found out in the mean time they can stop the wheels of progress, to the detriment of nearly everyone, just by saying "NO" and playing the blame game. Right now for the Republicans the tea party has made it impossible for the Republicans to know which way is up and which way is down. They are the sad demonstration of a party severely out of control at all levels. If there is a problem it is always the other guy who is at fault. They have to be against what there were for before because they don't know where they are at. The tea party has brought them to their knees. While they are on their knees they better start praying they relearn the word "COMPROMISE". Twenty fourteen will be here soon and the Republicans will lose more ground if they can't get back to being a reasonable party. The choice is up to the Republicans.