Deliberation as an Alternative?

(The following is Gerald Ott’s response to a guest columnist’s piece  titled “One Helping of Irony is now Being Served” in DesMoinesRegister.com.)

Graham,

Nice piece in today’s Des Moines Register. Near the end you say “Instead of disparaging those seeking to be heard, those in elected office need to give these throngs a voice by trying to collaborate to improve America’s situation.”

On Saturday I attended a forum at the DM Central Library. The seven of us “deliberated” about the national debt, using a moderated process and materials from the Nat’l Issues Forums (www.nifi.org). It seemed the few at the library were collaborating, but the throngs were in the streets. Any thoughts about how the two might get together (along with elected officials)?

Below are words from the NIF materials, including the the approaches we discussed. After the forum, we seven each filled out a survey and the moderator will send them and a report to the Kettering Foundation, who prepared the discussion guides. KF will write a report for leaders including politicians. Seems small in face of these huge problems. Thoughts?

Gerry Ott
gerry-ott@mchsi.com
Ankeny

From the introduction to A Nation in Debt: How Can We Pay the Bills?

It’s become apparent to many Americans that if we do not act decisively on the nation’s debt soon, our economy will be seriously hobbled and we will dump an unsustainable burden on our children and grandchildren.

“What’s decided (or not decided) over the next few years will spell big changes for the way we live our daily lives,” write Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson in Where Does the Money Go? Your Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis. “How the country solves or doesn’t solve this problem will affect our paychecks, our investments, our mortgages, our kids’ prospects in life, what kind of health care we’ll get, our chances of ever getting to retire—even whether we live in a country that’s fair, stable and prosperous.”

This 12-page issue guide presents an overview of the problem and three options for deliberation.

Option One: Agree to Make Sacrifices Now – We need to compromise on our differences and act now to reduce the national debt.  If this generation doesn’t make needed sacrifices, we’re simply passing the burden to the next generation. It’s time to face this urgent problem.  We need to raise taxes and cut spending; neither will get the job done alone.

Option Two: Strengthen Checks and Balances – We cannot just hope that personal discipline and basic legislative safeguards will control the urge to spend.  Citizens willingly accept more benefits than government can afford and leaders are too willing to help us dig this hole.  Our top priority should be to make systemic changes to increase fiscal responsibility.

Option Three: Invest in Growth First – We need to encourage economic growth and invest in research, development, infrastructure, and science education.  Growing the economy will boost tax revenues, make the debt more manageable, and will be better for the country in the long run.  Drastic cost-cutting measures would likely harm the economy as it tries to recover.

Also read Gerry Ott’s blog post at http://asseenfromthisside.blogspot.com/

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