On Tuesday, North Carolina will become the 17th state to host an active chapter of Fix The Debt, a nonpartisan group working to promote solutions to the problem of the growing national debt.
The new chapter will be formally launched by former North Carolina governors Jim Hunt, a Democrat, and Jim Holshouser, a Republican, at a news conference in Raleigh, McClatchy reported.
The group plans to reach out to people through advertising and events in the hope of conceiving and proposing solutions to the debt, which has nearly tripled to more than $16 trillion since 2000.
“We intend to create a groundswell of local, state and national support that persuades Congress to pass, and the President to sign, a comprehensive debt deal,” spokesman Jon Romano said.
Fix The Debt was founded by former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, who co-chaired President Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, commonly known as the Simpson-Bowles commission.
Bowles is a native of North Carolina and ran its state university system from 2005-2010.
The rest of the national organization is run by a long list of former politicians and high-ranking businesspeople from both sides of the aisle who hope to push Congress and the White House to find an agreement on how to start reducing the debt.
The hope is to be more successful than the Simpson-Bowles proposals, which included massive cuts to Social Security, the Pentagon budget, other government agencies, and a host of tax breaks. Members of both parties reacted negatively to the plan.
There has been little or no movement on reducing the national debt, with the closest action being the fiscal-cliff backstop: allowing Bush-era tax cuts to expire and automatic across-the-board cuts, including to the military, that Obama and Congress are now trying to avoid.
“Once in a while something comes along that joins us together — when we all have to band together and set aside differences for the greater good,” Hunt said. “It is the most important domestic issue that we’ve had in generations.”
More than 300,000 people have signed an electronic petition at FixTheDebt.org to push legislators to do something about the debt. The group also published a free book on the website to help people educate their communities and motivate them to get involved in the conversation about what to do.
“The Fix the Debt campaign is an effort to bring everybody together,” said Ed Lorenzen, an adviser to the group. “We’re realistic. They’re not necessarily going to enact the final solution and an entire legislative package by the end of the year.”
“But we’re hoping and pushing to ... adopt at least the framework of a deal that would allow Congress to finish the work,” he said.
Making the issue even bigger is an impending debate in Congress over raising the debt ceiling once again. The fiscal cliff which Obama and Congress are scrambling to avoid came from a “super committee” charged with reducing the federal budget deficit and starting to pay down the debt after a contentious months-long debate about the ceiling in 2011.
The race to avoid automatic moves that both parties appear worried about has emboldened the demand of people like those involved with Fix The Debt to find a to the country’s borrowing problem.
Lorenzen called the group proof that people are “frustrated with a political system that can’t solve problems and is stuck with gridlock … and the inability to deal with the deficit is at the top of the list.”
After Americans voted a split Congress back into office, Hunt agreed that politicians need to start working together to solve problems because voters are beginning to get impatient. Whatever they agree to, he said, will be painful for both sides of the political divide -- as it should be.
“For either side not to participate and be willing to make some sacrifices would be disastrous for our country,” he said. “The great, great majority of people would not stand for that.”
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