Everyone wants to avoid the proverbial fiscal cliff that threatens us on January 1, but nobody wants to make any sacrifices to prevent it. That is totally unrealistic, as some of North Carolina’s leaders pointed out at Tuesday’s “Fix the Debt” coalition press conference.
Former Glaxo CEO Bob Ingram, co-chair of the North Carolina effort, said this fiscal crisis is a result of the economic downturn, growing health care costs, an aging population and irresponsible policy choices by both parties, saying a successful fix must be comprehensive, bi-partisan and one in which “everyone gives up something they like for the country they love.” Failure to do so will plunge us into another recession, the economy will shrink as much as four percent in the first quarter of next year, unemployment will soar and, according to Moody’s, our Triple-A credit rating will be jeopardized. More importantly, we will face the same fate as European nations that ignored or took too little action to solve their financial problems and are today in desperate straits. Ingram also warned against focusing only on the budget deficit, saying the greater urgency is the federal debt, now at the highest share of our economy since World War II.
Former governors Jim Hunt and Jim Holshouser concurred on the immediacy for this campaign. Jim Holshouser remarked that Republicans and Democrats need to learn to work together again, saying that he and Hunt had demonstrated it could be done “without bringing down bolts of lightning on them.” He also acknowledged this will be painful, admitting he didn’t like any of the options being discussed, but quickly adding that unless our leaders work together to find the lesser of the evils they will have failed this nation and themselves.
Jim Hunt reminded us that during World War II everyone made sacrifices. Rationing, shortages and human sacrifices were the norm as we united to fight for freedom for that generation and those to come. Today’s fiscal crisis is equally threatening and we are foolish to think we can overcome it without pain and sacrifice. Those alive during World War II remember the size and magnitude of that effort. We did whatever was needed to win. We must once again “go big,” as Hunt aptly put it. We cannot temporize or minimize this threat. The four-term governor said he had no polling data but strongly believed North Carolinians supported the efforts of the coalition.
North Carolina’s Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson were the genesis of this grassroots campaign. The Simpson-Bowles Commission studied our fiscal crisis exhaustively and arrived at solutions few liked but a growing number agree are necessary. And lest you believe this is a top-down problem to be addressed only by the president and congress the coalition, at their www.fixthedebt.org, site, has a toolkit of options we as citizens can undertake to grow this movement from a grass roots level to Capitol Hill and the White House.
It makes no difference who or what created today’s fiscal problems. This is our crisis for our time and just as previous generations stood up to the challenges of their day so must we meet and resolve today’s fiscal problems, proving to future generations our desire to be free, independent and prosperous.
— Tom Campbell is former assistant North Carolina State Treasurer and is creator/host of “NC SPIN,” a weekly statewide television discussion of North Carolina issues airing Sundays at 6:30 a.m. on WRAL-TV and at 8:30 a.m. on WRAZ-TV FOX50. He can be reached at www.ncspin.com.