By Stella Adams, Kirsten Silveira and Wanda Rohm
This op-ed originally appeared in the The Hill on November 28, 2011.
We three women represent a broad cross-section of America. A founder and CEO of a fair housing non-profit, a small businesswoman and a college undergrad – we are from three different time zones and have three distinct viewpoints of politics and public policy. But even though we come from diverse backgrounds, we are united in our concern about our national debt. We understand that our debt has the ability to affect everything from our children’s education to our country’s national security. Simply put, it’s time we quit the bickering that has surrounded this issue for too long and solve this problem once and for all.
It is extremely dangerous and troubling that we have let our debt balloon to its current figure of $16 trillion. We are concerned this debt will get in the way of things that matter most to average Americans. For instance, last year we spent over $454 billion in interest payments on the national debt – more than we invested in education, housing, agriculture and transportation, combined. With annual interest payments ever escalating, our debt is increasingly crowding out funding for this country’s most important needs. Furthermore, the debt we accumulate today must be paid back by future generations of Americans. Not only is incurring debt of this size unfair, it’s also irresponsible because it puts those that follow us at a considerable disadvantage in the global economy. We must take action now to reduce the debt before further long-term damage is done to our country and its future.
While our national debt poses a significant challenge to our country, we face a more immediate threat that is capable of doing considerable damage on its own. Set to take effect on January 1, the “fiscal cliff” –the poorly thought-out combination of tax increases and virtually across-the-board spending cuts – is certain to harm our already fragile economy. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects the economy will shrink at an annualized rate of nearly 4 percent in the first quarter of 2013 if we go over the cliff, which would likely cause us to slip into another recession. And the uncertainty surrounding this situation already has businesses scaling back investments and freezing hiring. Our leaders in Washington must come together and do everything within their power to ensure we avert the cliff, giving us the stability to move ahead with our lives without fear of major economic upheaval.
As Congress reconvenes for the next several weeks before the start of the 113th Session – otherwise known as the “lame duck” period – our representatives enter a critical phase for negotiations surrounding the fiscal cliff and debt reduction. We appreciate the importance of this period, which is why we are flying to Washington to meet with Members of Congress to voice our concerns on this issue.
While much remains to be seen regarding the details of any deals, one thing is for certain – Congress and President Obama must work together in a bipartisan manner to avert the cliff and gradually bring down the debt as a share of the economy. Both sides must make a concerted effort to compromise, even if that means conceding things that they feel strongly about. We need to have a comprehensive approach that looks at both sides of the ledger – spending and revenues – if we are serious about tackling this issue. And there cannot be any “sacred cows” in this process. But our leaders need your help, which is where you come in.
Focused on promoting awareness on the issue of our debt and providing our leaders in Washington the support they need to solve these problems, the Campaign to Fix the Debt is a rapidly-growing bipartisan movement committed to placing America on a more responsible fiscal path. The Campaign is made up of business and policy leaders, former Members of Congress and hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens from across the country. If you, like us, recognize that further inaction is unacceptable, please visit FixTheDebt.org and join the more than 300,000 citizens that have already signed the Campaign’s Citizen’s Petition.
Reducing our national debt while avoiding the fiscal cliff is a tough proposition, but we are a nation of strong leaders and determined citizens who are more than capable of this monumental task. There is far too much at stake to avoid confronting our massive debt. Our nation’s future depends on your support. We are all in this together, and it is going to take a collective effort if we are going to fix the debt.
Adams of North Carolina is Founder and CEO of S J Adams Consulting, which provides community education in fair housing/fair lending issues. Silveira of Colorado is a senior Political Science major at Colorado State University. Rohm of Texas is the founder and former owner of Presto Printing.