Event Recap: "Economic and Foreign Policy Implications of America's Debt"

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosted an event today chaired by former Senators Sam Nunn (D-GA), who is a member of the steering committee for the Campaign to Fix the Debt, and Pete Domenici (R-NM) entitled "Economic and Foreign Policy Implications of America's Debt." It featured comments from former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, former Treasury Secretary and Secretary of State James Baker, and a panel of former members of Congress.

The clear message from the event was a need for both action and compromise. On the need for action, Baker spelled out in detail the danger of failing to address our problem, with consequences not only including greater interest payments, but also slower global growth and a threat our current status as a reserve currency. There are also tremendous political incentives to come to a solution according to Rubin; if Obama or Romney is unable to secure a fiscal plan the result will be "four fallow years" with the Administration unlikely to accomplish much given fiscal restraints and another possible economic downturn due to the fiscal cliff.

Baker and Rubin disagreed on how deficit reduction should be achieved, with Baker arguing that spending cuts should make up the bulk of deficit reduction and Rubin believing that a plan should rely equally on spending cuts and revenue increases, even if that would require higher marginal rates. But both Rubin and Baker agreed that there was a need for a bipartisan approach and that everything should be on the table. Rubin reminded the audience that while the deficit challenge makes it difficult for both sides to agree, the disagreements faced by our Founders were even greater. We have a history of meeting seemingly unsurmountable crises with compromise.  

On a related note, Nunn mentioned his support for the Fix the Debt campaign and its outreach to citizens on this important issue. Rubin emphasized the role everyday citizens could play in this debate, by creating an environment where it would be impossible to avoid taking on the issue. Nunn and former Representative Tim Roemer (D-IN) both agreed that the American people have to be involved, challenging leaders to find real solutions and make the tough choices. Nunn may have said it best: "Our leaders cannot answer the question 'What is two plus two?' with another question 'What do you want it to be?'" Show Congress that they need to take on the issue by signing the Fix the Debt petition.

The event was the first of a four "Strengthening of America–Our Children's Future" forums of former senators and representatives that are seeking to raise awareness of our growing and unsustainable debt. More information can be found here.

Photo from CSPAN