MY VIEW: David Walker September 18, 2013

Many are pessimistic about whether Congress will be able to meaningfully address our countries debt challenges this fall, especially with the possiblity of a government shutdown looming in a few short days, and a need to raise the debt ceiling shortly thereafter. Yesterday, former Comptroller General and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative David Walker argues in an op-ed in The Hill that despite the great challenge that lies ahead, public will indicates some reason for hope.

The task ahead will be challenging, but based on what I’ve seen and heard, especially in my travels to all 50 states, we have more reason for hope than despair. Here’s why:

We the People are in charge.

Today we have a government that is neither representative of nor responsive to the American people. That can change if Americans insist on accountability and punish unduly partisan and ideological politicians in the voting booth.

Walker sees a disconnect right now between elected officials and voters. We've seen in polling before that most Americans favor a budget compromise that would put us on a sustainable path. In fact, even when presented the details, most Americans are willing to compromise so long as the principles seemed fair, according to Walker's experience on his national tour:

More than anyone else, I have gauged the will of my fellow citizens when it comes to fixing our government’s financial mismanagement—most recently in a nationwide bus tour through 27 states last fall. Their verdict could not be clearer. In gatherings across the country, with participants of every political stripe, we obtained 92 percent agreement on six key principles to guide a fiscal “grand bargain.” The reforms should lead to economic growth, and be socially equitable, culturally acceptable, mathematically accurate, politically feasible, and able to achieve meaningful bipartisan support.  When we discussed specific reforms, most conservatives and liberals were willing to put aside ideology as long as proposals were deemed to be fair and part of a comprehensive plan.

That tells us that politicians in Washington can gain the public support they need for bold reforms as long as they explain our urgent need to act and then lay out responsible positions. I am convinced that over time political courage and leadership will be rewarded—and cowardice will be punished.

Walker sees this impact of raised public awareness in many ways. More politicians are concerned about the issue, including President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), as the fiscal cliff negotiations clearly showed. More organizations have joined the fight, like the Campaign to Fix the Debt, No Labels, and The Can Kicks Back. So while fiscal responsibility is tough work, Walker believes momentum is on our side. Writes Walker:

Clearly the hole we have dug ourselves is deep, and getting deeper, and our political system is badly broken. But I am hopeful about our ultimate prospects for success. We the People have awakened, and Washington is slowly waking up, too.  If we act boldly and responsibly, our best days will surely lie ahead.

Click here to read the full op-ed.

"My Views" are works published by members of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, but they do not necessarily reflect the views of all members of the committee.