Panel Talks Bipartisan Economic Policy

Fiscal 911
Zorigoo Tugsbayar

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) discusses US debt reduction options at the IOP Forum Event titled, “Fiscal 911: Washington to the Rescue?”

“It’s hard to get people to talk about deficits at their kitchen table when there are so many things going on in their lives,” said Maya MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

The Institute of Politics gathered MacGuineas and three other experts around a panel table rather than a kitchen one on Tuesday night in an attempt to spark such conversations about economic policy, an issue that moderator Nina J. Easton termed “the great crisis of our time that we seem to forget is the crisis of our time.”

MacGuineas, who also serves as the director of the New America Foundation’s Fiscal Policy Program, was joined on the panel by Senator Mark R. Warner, Chairman and CEO of Honeywell International David M. Cote, and John “Vin” Weber, a former congressman and current economic adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Panelists focused on the importance of Democrats and Republicans uniting in Washington to fix current economic problems that plague the United States.

“Each [party] has the other by the throat,” Cote said, “and one is saying [the solution is] higher taxes and the other is saying it’s lower spending, and at the end of the day, it’s both.”

If Democrats and Republicans do not come together, panelists warned, the United States could face a second downgrade by ratings agency Standard and Poor’s before the 2012 elections.

After hearing the panelists’ exhortations toward bipartisanship, Hunter S. Fortney ’15 said, “It gives you hope that there are models on both sides that can compromise. The middle road is probably the golden road.”

But Weber noted that full cooperation is difficult to attain.

“You can’t hold out for a day when the two parties have no differences,” he said.

Many of the experts cautioned against leaving the deficit for a younger generation to inherit.

Warner expressed surprise that students do not discuss the deficit more frequently. “We’re leaving you with the bill,” he said, adding that policy makers should work to make fiscal issues more understandable to younger citizens.

“Bottom line,” MacGuineas said, “is we’re just spending a lot and not willing to pay for it and leaving it to our kids. It’s not much more complicated than that.”

—Staff writer Amy Q. Friedman can be reached at afriedman@college.harvard.edu.

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