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With the Democratic and Republican conventions around the corner, the political world is abuzz about who's up in the polls, upcoming debates and attack ads on TV.
But while all this politicking makes good fodder for the pundits, a more serious conversation needs to take place about the burgeoning debt that is threatening the nation. The best way to get that conversation going is for both parties to include a commitment to reduce the national debt in their respective platforms.
At almost $16 trillion, the debt is larger than the entire size of the U.S. economy. As a consequence, most experts agree, job growth has been severely stunted.
Ed Lazear, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, told Congress that as U.S. debt grows, investors grow uncertain of the federal government's ability to repay its loans, prompting businesses to sit on the sidelines, instead of investing capital and creating jobs.
With unemployment stuck above 8 percent, our political leaders need to act now - before this crisis deepens.
This past June, the Congressional Budget Office found that if the federal government continues to spend at its current rate, U.S. debt will exceed 109 percent of gross domestic product in 14 years. The debt will more than double in relation to the economy in 25 years.
Many economists predict that failure to fix our spending will induce a crisis like the one Europe is currently experiencing. Americans cannot afford the damage the national debt is currently doing to the economy - and they can't afford a European style meltdown in the future.
We at Public Notice recently wrote to both the Democratic and Republican conventions asking them to include the necessary policies to reduce America's debt in their national platforms.
We addressed both parties because this is not a matter of partisan politics. The national debt is a problem about which the overwhelming majority of Americans - Democrats, Republicans, and independents - are concerned. In our most recent poll, respondents said that issues such as government spending (77 percent), job creation (86 percent) and the U.S. debt level (79 percent) are extremely or very important for Washington to tackle.
Decisions on how to go about reducing the debt will not come easy, but Washington must agree to immediately cut spending and reform its wasteful habits. The first course of action is to make the much-needed cuts in spending. Then, both sides need to find a long-term solution in which everything is on the table, including the overhaul of both our tax code and our entitlement programs.
Now is the best time for our political leaders to commit to these solutions. By addressing the specific need to curb government spending in the convention platforms, both sides have the opportunity to start fresh, present their goals, and move forward on the issues as soon as the next Congress is selected.
On our current course, Washington is creating obligations that future generations will have to bear. The United States will be paying interest to countries such as China instead of investing in education and defense. We will not be able to afford the government protections and services that made our parents and grandparents competitive and strong - the same ones that our children deserve.
The conventions are just around the corner. It is critical that Democrats and Republicans act now to hold candidates accountable through their respective platforms and come together to solve the debt crisis. Voters will be watching closely.
Gretchen Hamel is executive director of Public Notice.