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Questions to Ask Candidates About Nation's Fiscal Future

The Concord Coalition (CC), which educates the public about the causes and consequences of federal budget deficits, published a paper last Friday, April 22, 2016, that provides a comprehensive set of 10 key questions that voters may find helpful in discussing America's fiscal future with candidates. The 10-page paper is available in an Adobe (.pdf) format so you can hand it out to your friends.

The Concord Coalition provides the following short explanation for the the paper:

"The federal budget deficit is on the rise again and the nation’s debt remains on a long-term path that is unsustainable. Voters should expect candidates in this year’s elections to explain how they intend to deal with the huge challenges ahead.

"Doing nothing would be the height of fiscal irresponsibility, could jeopardize our economy and undermine our position of global leadership. It would also burden our children and future generations with massive government debt. So what do the candidates propose?

"Voters have a right -- and a responsibility -- to find out.

"This is no time for vague rhetoric and petty partisan jabs; voters should insist on credible solutions -- the more specific, the better.

"Some of those solutions won’t be easy because the problems go far beyond the simple “waste, fraud and abuse” we hear about so frequently in campaign speeches. Nor can we expect even strong economic growth alone to put the country on a sustainable path."

I won't try to explain the discussion underlying each of CC's 10 questions; many include charts. Rather, I'll just list the 10 questions below:

  1. To close the government's fiscal imbalance would you consider changes in all parts of the federal budget? If not, what parts would you target and what would you consider untouchable?
  2. Where does deficit reduction fit within your priorities?
  3. Could you identify some areas in the budget where you see opportunities for bipartisan cooperation on reform?
  4. How should the government curb the growth of its health care spending programs while maintaining or improving the quality of care?
  5. Social Security is projected to run increasingly large cash deficits as the population ages and more people qualify for retirement benefits. How should we address these shortfalls?
  6. Are there some examples of tax provisions favoring specific activities or categories of taxpayers that you would support eliminating? If so, would you favor using the resulting revenue to reduce federal borrowing, lower tax rates, or both?
  7. Are there federal programs that you consider clearly wasteful or subject to widespread fraud and abuse, and how much savings would you expect to recover by reforming or eliminating these programs?
  8. Spending caps over the next decade will reduce “discretionary” spending -- the money Congress approves on an annual basis for defense and many domestic programs -- well below the historic lows for each as a share of the economy. Should defense spending be reduced further, kept the same or increased?
  9. Should domestic discretionary spending be reduced further, kept the same or increased?
  10. What relationship do you see between getting our fiscal house in order and a strong economy?

The questions seemed equally applicable to ask of presidential as well as candidates for Congress. If you don't have your Congressional representatives in your address book, just scroll down to yesterday's Growls, or use this link, since we provide links to Arlington County's representatives in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and a link to the Library of Congress to find the Internet addresses of all 535 members of Congress.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

To learn more about the mission and history of the Concord Coalition, click here.


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