Demand deficit action

A growing number of American citizens and political leaders are beginning to realize there will be severe consequences if the nation’s debt is allowed to continue expanding, virtually unchecked.

Unfortunately, a majority of the members of the U.S. Senate didn’t share that concern – at least not enough to pass legislation last week that would have created a bipartisan commission to develop plans for reining in the debt. Instead, the Senate passed yet another measure to raise the debt ceiling.

As a result, President Barack Obama announced during his State of the Union address Wednesday that he will create his own bipartisan fiscal commission, modeled after the measure that failed in the Senate. He also proclaimed that the commission must come up with realistic solutions, quickly.

“This can’t be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem,” the president said. “The commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline.”

We applaud the president for recognizing the importance of controlling the deficit, even during a severe recession. As Obama noted, failure to deal with the deficit “could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing and jeopardize our recovery.”

We also commend lawmakers such as Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, who have highlighted the need for deficit reduction for several months.

The problem is that the presidential commission, unlike the one that failed in the Senate, will have no teeth. It can make recommendations about what should be done, but Congress can ignore those recommendations as it chooses. And based on what occurred last week, it appears an awful lot of people in Congress want to just keep whistling past the graveyard – acting like there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to the deficit.

When the president’s commission issues its recommendations, it will be up to legislators like Udall and Bennet, and especially Obama to publicly push for action on the deficit – to do so repeatedly and forcefully – so that ignoring the issue will be difficult.


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