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Budget Thu Jun 17 2010
An Op-Ed Submitted by Rev. Dr. Clare Butterfield and Herman Brewer
Some experts and policymakers believe our country could do more to prevent problems before they occur. In particular, instead of postponing our response to the nation's budget problems, we should use our resources today to prevent them from becoming worse. New reports show that current patterns in U.S. spending and revenue can't be continued in the long run. Decisions must be made about the goals we want our country to meet and how we raise the money to meet them; there are steps we can take today to prevent fiscal problems from becoming bigger and more costly to fix. The solutions we come up with will be important to all Americans.
The options that Congress and President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform will have to consider to rein in our future budget deficits will not be easy or popular - whether by raising taxes or by cutting vital programs like our military or Medicare. Unfortunately, it is hard to believe that enough political leaders will step forward to make these tough choices without a clear message from the American public that we are ready to make compromises to put our fiscal house in order.
Here's where you come in: on Saturday, June 26, Chicagoland residents will join communities across the country in an unprecedented discussion about our federal budget. Hosted by the nonprofit, nonpartisan AmericaSpeaks, the event will focus on solutions we can develop together. Those solutions will be shared with leaders in Washington including President Obama and members of Congress. Local organizations such as the All Stars Project of Chicago; El Valor; Illinois League of Women's Voters; the MacArthur Foundation; Mikva Challenge Foundation; and Wheaton College's J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy are among many that have stepped up to ensure that Chicagoans from all walks of life have a chance to join in this important conversation.
Chicago is one of six cities hosting the largest of the forums, each of which will be linked by satellite and the Internet for what will be a truly national conversation. We want to ensure that our city is well represented in these conversations and our community's interests are heard.
Now let's be clear -- the budget crisis being addressed is one that existed before the financial meltdown of the last two years. And it will be there after the markets have adjusted and more seemingly economics return.
As we emerge from this unprecedented economic abyss, there are a number of critical choices that we must make if the country is to meet its fiscal challenge. Solutions now under consideration include changing budget priorities, changing the tax system or some combination of both. Our nation has some hard choices to make. You deserve a voice in determining the path to take because these choices will impact your life and your children's lives. After all, each U.S. resident's current share of the national debt is currently just over $39,000.
In recent years, Chicagoland and Illinois residents have been overwhelmed by budget crises at the city, county and state level - problems much closer to home than the national debt. That's one of the reasons you need to participate in this national conversation. Growing national debt can eventually make our state and local budget challenges even greater. Together we can show our leaders that regular citizens can contribute meaningful ideas to the budget conversation, ideas that have the power to solve these serious problems. And a healthier national budget means a better future for everyone, whether you live in Cook or Kane County, Aurora or Waukegan.
Before leaders in Washington make any decisions, the American public needs an opportunity to weigh in and have its voice heard. It is critical that Chicago's residents participate in the discussion of our nation's fiscal health and priorities. Please visit usabudgetdiscussion.org to register to be a part of this national discussion and strategy session.
Historically Chicago voices have been heard on matters that make a difference. The looming fiscal crisis is one of those moments where we must work hard and speak firmly about how to avoid disaster. Chicago has a chance to make a difference. By taking part in the discussion, we can send a message to Congress about the kind of nation and community we want to be.
Rev. Dr. Clare Butterfield is the Executive Director of Faith in Place
Herman Brewer is the Acting President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League