OPINION

Make fiscal responsibility a top priority

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Iowans are no strangers to the chaos that we call caucus season. We have a unique opportunity in this state to vet the candidates and to speak to them on the issues we find most important.

No matter which issue you prioritize, there will need to be room for it in the federal budget. That’s why those of us affiliated with the First Budget initiative have made our priority the federal budget and the burgeoning national debt.

Through First Budget, a nonpartisan initiative of Fix the Debt and The Concord Coalition, we can advocate for fiscal responsibility and realistic solutions to our nation’s unsustainable budget policies.

Together with First Budget’s Iowa Cabinet members and volunteers throughout the state, we can urge the presidential candidates in both parties to explain how they would deal with the debt, starting with their first budget in office. First Budget also aims to help educate and engage voters in Iowa and elsewhere on the need for federal budget reform.

The federal debt currently exceeds $18 trillion, clouding our nation’s future. The government’s fiscal irresponsibility is digging us into an even deeper hole of debt. Whoever takes office in 2017 will inherit unsustainable budget policies with dangerous consequences:

• Increasing debt. Federal debt held by the public — which excludes what one part of the government owes another — is expected to rise from about $14 trillion today to more than $21 trillion in a decade. By 2025, we will see interest payments on the debt rise to more than $800 billion, up from $229 billion this year.

• Higher interest rates. A larger debt will put upward pressure on interest rates. This could increase the costs of mortgages, car loans, student loans, and credit card debt.

• Shrinking government investment. Unfortunately, if we stay on this path, more of the federal budget will be spent financing past commitments and current consumption rather than making investments to strengthen our future and benefit future generations. By 2030, it’s projected that nearly 100 percent of federal revenue will be spent on interest payments, Social Security and major federal health care programs, compared to roughly 65 percent this year. This would leave little room for other priorities like defense, education, infrastructure and research.

We need to stop kicking the can down the road. It is unfair and irresponsible to simply pass on such a large debt to future generations. We must also ensure that young Americans can depend upon programs like federal retirement security and health care programs to help them when they retire decades from now.

The Iowa caucuses provide a valuable opportunity to put a national spotlight on these issues. First Budget has an important role to play in ensuring that voters are aware of the fiscal and economic challenges ahead and the opportunity for the next administration to tackle them.

We urge Iowa voters to join us in asking the candidates how they will address these challenges. If they promise tax cuts or more spending, how will they pay for them without increasing the debt? How do they plan to put important programs like Social Security and Medicare on a more sustainable track?

Voters deserve to hear more than empty promises and simplistic solutions.

The next president will submit his or her first budget within weeks after taking office. We believe that budget should offer include realistic approaches to deal with the nation’s key fiscal and economic challenges.

We will be encouraging each candidate to explain how their first budget would do that. We hope you will join us.

For more information about the First Budget initiative, please visit firstbudget.org or call 319.471.0236.

• Kim Reem is on the First Budget Iowa Cabinet and is the president of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women. Sara Imhof works for The Concord Coalition and is Iowa director for First Budget. Comments: kim@iowafrw.org; simhof@concordcoalition.org

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.