Up to Us holds debate
Students, guest speaker discuss national debt
University Democrats and College Republicans came together Thursday evening in a rare occasion for the Up to Us forum in Garrett Hall. The groups debated problems surrounding the national debt and budget crisis.
Up to Us is a national program which aims to involve university students in the discussion surrounding the national debt.
“It’s really about bringing together all students, not necessarily public policy and politics students,” said fourth-year Engineering student Josh Lansford, a team leader of the University’s chapter of the campaign. “The engineering program is the second largest program here, but you would never think that they will come to an event like this. The national debt affects people in the Engineering School as much as it does [people] in the College.”
Guest speaker Diane Lim discussed the connection between the deficit and the most recent economic crisis in her opening remarks.
“We have short term pressures set up because of the great recession,” said Lim, a University alumna who works as a chief economist for Pew Charitable Trusts and previously served as chief economist for the House Budget Committee and the Concord Coalition. “With a recession you almost always have an increase in the national debt. Since we had a record breaking recession, we have a record deficit.”
But even if the economy continues to recover, Lim said the nation will face other problems when attempting to balance the budget in the future. “Now that the baby boomers are starting to retire, we have revenues that are not catching up with our spending,” Lim said.
Deficit spending isn’t inherently negative, however, Lim added.
“Fiscal responsibility does not necessarily always mean balancing the budget,” she said. “But it means that we are not running deficits every [year] so that our debt is unsustainable.”
Fourth-year College student Liam McNamara, a member of the College Republicans, said the political climate in Washington was not conducive to productive debate.
“There’s a lot of sound bites we’ve been hearing, such as lowering taxes,” McNamara said. “I think they are mainly cop-outs. They may be great for interviews, but they don’t really get home to the issues.”
Either political party, McNamara said, would have to face the pressures of the political system and curb spending if it wanted to truly address the debt.
“Regardless of which party is in power, there is always pressure to spend way beyond your means,” McNamara said. “The problem is that that pressure remains. Unfortunately, administrations past and administrations future will deal with this problem until there is a change.”
Members of the University Democrats spoke in favor of a more progressive taxation system and certain cuts in federal spending, particularly in defense spending.
“We need to make sure that the cuts that occur are not going to impact America’s standing in the 21st century, like in education,” said third-year College student Alex Preve, vice-president of University Democrats.