Fix debt effort positive step for area, state, nation

As CEO of the Lake Superior Community Partnership (LSCP) it is my duty to see that we do everything in our power to “stimulate and sustain a vibrant regional economy by facilitating economic growth and prosperity.”

Businesses throughout the region rely on the LSCP to advance their economic interests and to be a voice for their concerns. In leveraging our resources and connections we create an environment in which businesses are able to reach their full potential.

But our ability to effectively promote those important principles is in serious jeopardy due to the country’s most pressing economic problem – the national debt. Our failure to successfully confront this issue is extremely concerning to me and should be alarming to businesses throughout Michigan and across the country. The longer we wait to begin stabilizing and reducing the debt relative to the economy, the greater the risk of long-term, systemic fiscal and economic problems that will be difficult for businesses and their employees to weather.

The simple fact of the matter is the national debt has reached an unsustainable level, a stark fact that President Obama and Members of Congress can no longer ignore. As a share of gross domestic product, the debt is larger than it has been at any point since World War II.

The annual quarter trillion dollar interest payment on the debt trumps the funding for some of the country’s most important public programs such as education and housing. The upward trajectory of this debt must be turned around before its harmful effects do irreversible damage.

And things aren’t getting any easier. The country faces a series of fiscal speed bumps in the coming weeks and months. These hurdles will come in the form of the budget sequestration – the postponed portion of the dreaded “fiscal cliff” deal that features virtual across-the-board spending cuts that could potentially cost Michiganders 31,000 jobs if they take effect as scheduled.

And then there’s the expiration of Continuing Resolution on March 27, which funds the day-to-day operations of the government. Additionally, we are set to hit the debt ceiling on May 18 after suspending it a few weeks ago.

As illustrated above, we have transformed into a country governed by deadlines. Instead of responsibly confronting our economic problems in a timely manner we have made a habit out of waiting until the 11th hour to take action.

We cannot continue to stagger from one manufactured crisis to the next, especially when we are not resolving any of the root problems driving this burden of debt. Our elected leaders must replace this practice of postponing our fiscal headaches with substantive plans – not hours before the deadline – aimed at restoring the country’s fiscal footing.

Such proposals must be comprehensive and bipartisan in order to be truly effective. They must place emphasis on reforming entitlements so that they are solvent for future generations and revamping the tax code to make it more globally competitive. And we should always look at ways we can curb wasteful and low-priority spending in order to reallocate funds to where they are most needed.

In order for Members of Congress and President Obama to begin taking steps toward responsible debt and deficit reduction they must first meet in the middle.

This means neither party can operate on the fringe where nothing ever gets accomplished. Instead, our leaders must take a moderate stance on the issues they feel strongly about and do something Washington seems adverse to doing lately – forge a compromise. Only then can we expect to make any progress on restoring order to the nation’s fiscal house.

In the face of such overwhelming economic turmoil I am encouraged by the work being done to promote action on debt reduction by the Campaign to Fix the Debt. The Campaign is a nonpartisan movement comprised of business and policy leaders, former members of Congress, and hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens from around the country – all committed to placing America on a more sustainable fiscal path. I would encourage you to join me and the over 345,000 concerned citizens that have already shown their support by signing the Campaign’s Citizen’s Petition.

These challenging times call for strong leadership and sound policy, and I believe that Michiganders can be at the forefront of the solutions that begin to solve the nation’s fiscal woes. Let’s be an example by which America can follow as we strive to fix the debt.

Editor’s note: Amy Clickner is CEO of the Lake Superior Community Partnership.