If We Can Work Together, Why Can’t Congress?

Posted July 25, 2007 at 5:01pm

Partisan gridlock is crippling our nation’s ability to live up to its promise. To create truly effective solutions to America’s most pressing domestic problems, our leaders have to be willing to step across the aisle and work together toward a common goal.

Nowhere is this need more pressing than in the very foundation of the American dream — health care and long-term financial security.

The time for rhetoric is over. It’s time for leadership and action. That is why AARP, the Business Roundtable and the Service Employees International Union, organizations that often hold different views, are coming together with “Divided We Fail” — a national effort to help fix this problem and ensure that all Americans have access to the affordable, quality health care they deserve.

The United States is reaching a tipping point. With millions of Americans concerned about their health and long-term financial security, they fear the future will not be as prosperous for their children and grandchildren. If that happens, it will be the first time in American history. That is unacceptable.

Sharply increasing health care costs continue to burden workers and businesses alike while sapping our nation’s competitive strength. In fact, more than half of the CEOs of America’s largest employers cite rising health care costs as the most significant pressure facing their companies. At the same time, workers are facing double jeopardy: a broken health care system and a deep uncertainty about how to pay for it. And as the presidential campaigns, primaries and elections continue to dominate the news, we can expect a great deal of finger-pointing for this quagmire.

As leaders of three prominent business, labor and consumer organizations, we took our shared message to Capitol Hill this week and challenged our elected leaders to put aside partisan differences and join us by pledging to create meaningful solutions to the health care challenges that burden our nation. We believe that only by working together — corporations, government, individuals and families — can we address America’s health care crisis. If our three organizations can put aside our ideological differences to create real solutions, then Congress can, too.

Our challenge stands for all who are willing to rise to it. As we enter the presidential election season, we call on our nation’s leaders to offer real solutions to the critical issues facing our nation. We need leaders who are willing to take a serious look at these issues, those who understand that the complexities are too important to be glossed over by platitudes and sound bites and who are ready to get the job done if elected.

The time for action is now. The problems are complex, and the answers will require hard choices. We must start by coming together. From there, we can work to craft fair and bipartisan solutions. Our organizations, and the Americans we represent, are leading the charge for positive change. We truly hope that Congress will follow our lead. Divided we fail, but together we can do anything.

Bill Novelli is CEO of AARP, John Castellani is president of the Business Roundtable and Andy Stern is president of the Service Employees International Union.