Seize opportunity to tackle budget deficit

Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2013, 12:00 am
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
By Sara Imhof
It's not the way government should work: Jobless Americans in need of extended unemployment benefits, Pentagon generals and federal agency directors waiting to hear about their appropriations and investors concerned about another global scare over the federal debt limit are all waiting on Washington to do its work. The regular budget process laid in shambles for most of this year.

The budget deal that finally came together a few days ago in Washington could reduce the uncertainty and chaos, at least for a while. If elected officials follow through on it in the next few weeks, it would spare us another government shutdown.

But the agreement fails to deal with the country's biggest fiscal challenges: The government's growing debt and rising interest payments, a ramshackle tax system that costs $1 trillion a year in lost revenue and an aging population that in coming years will require more and more assistance from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Although the federal deficit has dropped sharply in the past year, it is expected to start rising again in the next few years on an unsustainable path.

The federal debt held by investors and foreign countries amounts to about 72 percent of our Gross Domestic Product. Except for a short period around the end of World War II, that's the highest level of government debt in U.S. history.

Our rising debt, demographic forces, health care spending and interest payments all are putting more and more pressure on the federal budget.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that under current law, federal spending apart from Social Security and major health care programs would fall to its smallest percentage of GDP in more than 70 years.

Meanwhile, CBO warns, federal debt would still climb to 100 percent of GDP in 25 years. Our living standards, our economic strength and our position of world leadership all would be in jeopardy.

We would be increasingly dependent on our creditors, and the United States would have less budgetary flexibility to deal with new challenges at home and abroad that we might not be able to foresee.

Worst of all, we would be harming our children and future generations by leaving them with enormous debts that we refused to pay ourselves.

Fortunately, elected officials have many fiscal reform options.

On Tuesday, residents of Illinois' 17th Congressional District have the opportunity to tackle the deficit themselves!

Rep. Cheri Bustos and the nonpartisan Concord Coalition present interactive budget exercises in Galesburg and Moline, where participants will break into small groups to review, discuss and decide on dozens of options. The goal: Put together a comprehensive fiscal reform package that would significantly reduce federal deficits over the next decade.

The budget exercises are open to the public, but reservations are suggested. For more information, see or contact Kerry Myers at or 309-786-3406.

Whether you can participate Tuesday or not, be sure to let your elected representatives know that you expect Washington to do a better job of managing the federal budget in the future.
Sara Imhof is the Concord Coalition midwest regional director and education programs director.


Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, July 30, the 211th day of 2014. There are 154 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: After Sept. 1, every small box of matches will be required to have a 3 cent duty Lincoln stamp on it, and every large box will be one cent for every 100 matches.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Rock Island residents had contributed a total of $1,293 to the American Red Cross for the Johnstown flood relief fund.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Capt. Clark Means, new darkhorse twirler for the ARGUS staff, was in great form in his initial contest as a mound laborer. The result was that THE ARGUS trimmed the Union 6-5.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Hunter and Humprey Moody, young Decatur, Ill, brothers, lack only a few hours of establishing a new world light plane endurance record.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Gates of the 110th annual Mercer County Fair swing open tonight at Aledo for a full week of day and night activity. More that $36,000 will be paid in premiums and race purses.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The baseball field carved out of the cornfield near Dyersville, Iowa, continues to keep dreams alive for hundreds of visitors. Tourists from 26 state and France have visited Dan Lansing's farm to see the baseball diamond seen in the hit movie "Field of Dreams."

(More History)