As I mentioned over the weekend, last week I had the incredible privilege of spending two days in Washington, D.C. as part of the MomThink.org campaign to raise awareness of the national debt. We met with representatives and their staff as well as think tanks and political bloggers to learn more about the national debt and what it means to our country.
I happen to love history, especially American History, but I’m not as well-versed in politics and economics as I might like to be, and I spent much of the trip feeling like James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (one of my all-time favorite movies!).
Among the people we met with were Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam, Charles Cogar (the Legislative Director for Rep. Mike Coffman), Conor Sweeney (the Communications Director for Rep. Paul Ryan, the head of the House Budget Committee) and Bill Green (from House Minority Leader John Boehner’s office).
To say that my head was very full of information by the time we left would be a gross understatment.
I think it’s also worth noting that while most of the people we met with were conservatives, it was not for lack of effort on the trip organizers’ part, and we also had several middle-of-the-road and liberal bloggers who took part in the trip as well, so the conversation between us was fairly balanced.
How the National Debt Affects Us
Here’s what I learned:
- This is truly a bipartisan issue. We may not agree on the solution, but we can all agree that something needs to be done.
- The debt ceiling has more than doubled in the last 7 years. It is now at $14.294 trillion, and we’re within weeks of hitting it. If that happens, the government shuts down completely.
- We owe more than $1 trillion to China. $1 TRILLION. That does not leave us in a very secure place.
Why We Should Care
So the real question is why we as American mothers should care. And believe me, I get it. I spoke up at one of the meetings we had and said this:
The issue isn’t that we don’t care or that we’re busy watching Dancing with the Stars. It’s that we have information coming at us from every direction on a myriad of topics — from vaccines to the danger of plastics to the importance of a real foods diet and decisions about our children’s education. As mothers, we have to try to sort through all of this to make decisions about what’s best for our families, and even if the national debt does make it onto our radar screen, it goes into the pile to be researched with a dozen other issues.
That said, I left D.C. convinced that this is an issue we should care about, and here’s why:
The only people who have the power to change the course of the nation’s spending are elected officials. It’s very rare that any official — Republican, Democrat or Independent — gets elected on their promise not to spend. No, they get elected on their promises, most of which involve spending.
Because of this, when it comes time for budget decisions, each of our elected officials is jockeying to make sure there’s enough money for the promises they’ve made to their constituents. Which leads to more spending.
The current debt crisis is only going to change if we as Americans stand up and ask our elected officials to cut spending. Yes, they are going to have to make some hard decisions.
It might mean eliminating programs and jobs. It might even mean raising taxes or eliminating tax cuts.
I don’t know what the right answer is, but I know our representatives are going to have to be willing to make tough decisions. And the only way they’re going to be willing to make these is if they believe it’s important to the people they represent.
We really learned more about this issue in just a day-and-a-half than I could ever include in a single blog post, but I want to leave you with these bipartisan resources to learn more about the debt, why it’s an important issue and some of the proposals on the table:
- Intellectual Takeout
- Bankrupting America
- Peter G. Peterson Foundation
- House Pledge to America
- House Democrats on Budget Issues
- Americans for a Balanced Budget Amendment
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue: Is it on your radar? Is it in your “to learn more about…someday” pile? Do you think Republicans and Democrats will ever be able to agree on how to get the deficit and debt under control?