Group Aims to Push For National Debt Solutions

Nov 8, 2012 2:26pm

Now that the campaign is over another campaign has been put into high gear:  fixing the debt and avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

The group founded by Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson announced today a national “Fix the Debt” campaign to mobilize corporate and citizen support to put pressure on Congress to avoid the fiscal cliff.

The fiscal cliff, which includes a elements such as expiring tax cuts for the rich and middle class, $1 trillion in automatic cuts set to take effect next year, and a debt limit increase, remains the most daunting challenge for Congress during the lame duck session, which begins Nov. 13.

Facing a fiscal cliff end-of-the-year deadline of just 54 days, their campaign will work just like an election year one – mobilizing grassroots support,  passing petitions, building congressional outreach, pushing through social media,  state and coalition building, and launching paid media. The group’s state operations will be the largest area of focus. So far they have operations in 11 states now and are looking to double that in the coming months.

Their first paid advertising launch has started including print, digital and outdoor. That message is that “the national debt is getting in the way of America excelling and unless we come together as a nation the situation is only going to get worse. ”

They hope to educate the country and create a political environment where members of Congress’ vote for a deal will be viewed as a good vote.

They’ve launched a CEO leadership council with over 100 leading CEOs and business leaders – like Honeywell, Caterpillar, Motorola, AT & T, John Deere, Starwood and Deloitte. The CEOS will talk to their employees, talk to their communities and come to Washington at times to deliver this message

“The level of activism goes well beyond just putting their name to a list of principles,” Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said. “They will really be working on this issue to solve the problem.”

On Wednesday Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, signaled openness today to the inclusion of new tax revenue in a legislative package to address the fiscal cliff as long as proceeds are linked to entitlement reform and spending cuts.

The group says that Speaker Boehner’s message yesterday was a “very good start to the discussion,” and “set the right tone.”

The group is not supporting any specific plan but is working to help find a “comprehensive debt deal” that will be an economically and politically viable. They note that Congress will be unlikely to hash out all the grand deals in the lame duck session but they advise on two obvious points:  that the country should not go off the fiscal cliff and Congress cannot punt on this issue.

“We are now in a position where credit markets, countries around the globe and citizens of this country who are really aware of this issue are watching,” MacGuineas said. “And if Congress punts on this I think markets would be incredibly unforgiving and we really risk jeopardizing where we stand in the global economy by showing that we cannot govern.”

The group says that if Congress cannot hammer out the full parameters of a debt deal “they need to make this the first credible step to put a comprehensive debt deal in place…start down the path of putting those choices in place and coming up with a full-fledge process and timeline for how they are going to figure out the rest of the debt deal as soon as possible.”

They said that any deal must address structural entitlement reform and reinvents through tax reform.  A deal is possible without raising tax rates on the wealthy, they said.

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