AmericaSpeaks: Our Budget, Our Economy, National Discussion

Peter G. Peterson Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Budgeting, National Policy
Albuquerque, NM; Chicago, IL; Columbia, SC; Dallas, TX; Philadelphia, PA; Portland, OR; Augusta, ME; Casper, WY; Des Moines, IA; Detroit, MI; Grand Forks, ND; Jackson, MS; Los Angeles County, CA; Overland Park, KS; Louisville, KY; Missoula, MT; Portsmouth, NH; Richmond, VA; Silicon Valley, CA
June 2010

A National Discussion to Find Common Ground on Tough Choices About our Federal Budget

3,500 Americans came together across 57 cities to discuss the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges on June 26, 2010 for a day long 21st Century Town Meeting®. At tables across the country, people from every walk of life sat together and deliberated about the steps our nation can take over the coming decades to ensure that our fiscal house is in order. Liberals and conservatives, young and old, rich and poor, people of all races and ethnicities sat together in authentic conversation. Together they learned about the issues, weighed the trades offs, and sent a strong message to leaders in Washington about their priorities.

This national discussion engaged a broad cross-section of the American public, reflecting the demographic, geographic and political diversity of the United States. Satellite and webcast link-ups connected cities across the country to create a truly nationwide conversation.  Participants were given the opportunity to discuss their greatest hopes for the future and their concerns about the economic recovery process.  Some of the most common concerns across the country were unemployment, the debt and deficit, the slow pace of the recovery process, and too much spending and involvement by the government.

Participants spent much of the meeting learning about, discussing and voting on revenue and spending options that could reduce the deficit in 2025 by $1.2 trillion. They were presented with 42 options developed along with the Our Budget, Our Economy National Advisory Committee. In addition to expressing preferences among the options, they were able to suggest new additional options.

Among spending options, reductions in defense spending received the greatest support. 85% of participants expressed support for reducing defense spending by at least 5%, which included 51% of participants who expressed support for a 15% cut. 68% of participants expressed support for reducing. All Other Non-Defense spending by at least 5%. 62% of participants expressed support for reducing health care spending by at least 5%. No options for reducing Social Security benefits received a majority of support. Rather, 60% of participants expressed support for raising the cap on payroll taxes to 90%.

Among revenue options, 54% of participants expressed support for raising income taxes on those earning more than $1 million by five percent and 52% of participants expressed support for raising personal tax rates for the top two income brackets by at least 10%. 54% of participants expressed support for establishing a carbon tax and 50% of participants supported the establishment of a securities-transaction tax. No options for reducing deductions and credits received majority support. Participants were evenly divided about options presented to reform the tax code.

AmericaSpeaks Founder and President, Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer, presented the findings from the national discussion to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform on June 30th in Washington, DC. The presentation has been followed by briefings with Congressional leaders.