Are we confused enough yet? As I sit here writing these words, it appears our government is on the brink of failure. It is…correct me, if I’m wrong…the responsibility of our government to meet a specific list of needs for the public. If and when the government no longer meets those needs, it would seem to be failing. How do we get to a point where our government fails us? It’s possible that millions of our neighbors are wondering this same thing. It should give us pause to witness the political gridlock of the past few years, and now the seeming policy impasse that threatens to paralyze our nation and our economy.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the debt ceiling has been raised 74 times since March 1962. In good times and in bad times, the debt ceiling hasn’t created a crisis like this one. In Republican Congresses and Democratic Congresses, it hasn’t created this kind of impassioned rhetoric. During the sustained increase in our national debt from the 9/11 attacks through the economic meltdown of 2008, it wasn’t an issue that captured our attention for more than a moment. But now…the debt ceiling appears to be urgent and important enough to potentially derail our economic recovery, and to dramatically change the social contract of our government with the public. This is a time when public engagement is essential.
There appears to be a lot of concern and confusion about the national debt. It is a complex issue, so it’s natural to be a bit baffled by the connections between the federal budget, annual deficits and cumulative debt. Here is the link to a helpful explanation of some of these concepts. It was written in 2009 by Simon Johnson and James Kwak of ‘The Baseline Scenario’ website, and published on the NPR website. I believe it is about as fair and understandable explanation of our debt as I’ve seen anywhere.
National Debt for Beginners web article
Then I’m proposing a discussion method that begins with a survey…and builds some conversation opportunities around the results. Below is a SurveyMonkey link. Please complete the survey…and perhaps share the link with family, colleagues and friends. The results of the survey will be shared starting next Wednesday, April 13. I’ll be organizing a few online conversation opportunities early next week for those might be interested in these topics. Let’s see how diverse our feelings and opinions are on these basic questions about our federal budget, our national debt, taxes and our shared governance.
The results of the survey will be posted on the blog site at the link below. In addition, this blog will provide information about follow-up questions, a schedule for online conversations, and the opportunity to share comments. This is an experiment in dialogue and deliberation. It’s my feeling that many of our most critical issues in the future will require much more agile and adaptive forms of public engagement. Here is the blog link:
Deliberative IDEAS Live! blog site